The situation behind the Bamboo Curtain in Myanmar has turned dire, as anti-military junta forces intensify their operations across the country and sentiment against China for exploiting mineral reserves and supporting a military dictatorship grows. .
Last month, Myanmar recorded 647 conflict-related deaths, including 34 civilians, 581 security forces, three militants and 32 in fighting between pro-government and resistance forces. In April, 379 people linked to the conflict, including 17 civilians, 338 security force personnel, 11 militants and 13 members of resistance forces, were killed. Total fatalities in May registered a one-and-a-half-fold increase compared to April, with security force fatalities increasing by 71.89 per cent.
May’s death toll is one since December 2021’s figure of 654 after a military junta headed by Senior General Min Aung Hliang overturned the democratic mandate in favor of National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 2021 military coup. The highest recorded in a month. Suu Kyi is currently under house arrest after being convicted on various charges by a military court.
Rising anti-military junta resistance in Myanmar has been accompanied by growing anti-China sentiment in the country, with Hong Kong-listed private security contractors hired by Chinese company Wanbao Mining in Salingi Township in the Sagaing area. The company is in a joint venture with Economic Holdings Limited of Myanmar to extract copper from the Letpadaung mines in the region.
In protest against the military junta, the local militia attacked a military ship carrying reinforcements and rations for the Chinese company on the Chindwin River on 1 May. Resistance forces, along with Burmese immigrants, urged Beijing not to supply arms and ammunition to the military junta, and to prevent conflict between the two countries. Local militias and Myanmar security forces have made holes in copper mines in the Sagaing area.
The ongoing political crisis in Myanmar was also discussed by the Quad leaders at the Tokyo summit last month. The leaders of the four member states – India, the US, Australia and Japan – expressed concern over the crisis and called for a speedy restoration of democracy with the immediate implementation of the ASEAN five-point agreement.
To put pressure on the junta regime, the French embassy in Myanmar announced that the European Union and its member states “renewed their restrictive measures on a number of individuals and entities involved in military takeovers, which would undermine democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar”. and contribute directly or indirectly to the revenue/activities of the military regime.”
Reports from Myanmar suggest that anti-resistance forces are likely to escalate, with a significant risk of resumption of fighting in Rakhine State. The region along the west coast of Myanmar has remained largely calm since last year’s coup. But the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed organization based in Rakhine State, has gradually moved away from its affiliation with the junta, a blow to the regime’s efforts to lure other groups to the peace table.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Arakan Army, Tun Myat Ning, warned of a possible attack against the Western Regional Military Command if military activities continued to expand in Rakhine, an area that had seen a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims. A spokesman for Min Aung Hling, chairman of the State Administration Council, however, said the regime had no intention of fighting with the Arakanese group.
Meanwhile, a US-based representative of a Rohingya insurgent group operating in northern Rakhine announced that the organization plans to launch a fight against the junta within two years, asking refugees to donate money to support their cause. Appealed.
While conflict between the warring sides is likely to escalate, anti-China sentiments are creating new trouble for the junta. The deepening of the domestic crisis and the uncertainty over international recognition of military rule are bound to put further pressure on the government.