Situation has gone critical behind the Bamboo Curtain in Myanmar with anti-military junta forces intensifying their operations across the country and sentiments against China running high for exploiting mineral reserves and supporting the military dictatorship.
Last month, Myanmar recorded 647 conflict linked fatalities including 34 civilians, 581 security forces, three militants and 32 in fighting between pro-government and resistance forces. In April, there were 379 conflict linked fatalities including 17 civilians, 338 security force personnel, 11 militants and 13 members of resistance forces. The overall fatalities in May registered a one-and-a-half-fold increase as compared to April with security force fatalities increasing by 71.89 per cent.
The May fatalities are the highest recorded in a month since December 2021 figure of 654 after the military junta headed by Senior General Min Aung Hliang overturned the democratic mandate in favour of National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021 military coup. Suu Kyi is presently under house arrest after being convicted by military court on various charges.
The mounting anti-military junta resistance in Myanmar is accompanied by rising anti-China sentiment in the country with Hong Kong listed private security contractors hired by Chinese company Wanbao Mining in Salingyi township in Sagaing Region. This company is in a joint venture with Myanmar's Economic Holdings Ltd to extract copper from the Letpadaung mines in the region.
The local militia opposed to the military junta attacked a military ship carrying reinforcements and rations for the Chinese company on Chindwin River on May 1. The resistance forces along with Burmese expats have urged Beijing not to supply arms and ammunition to the military junta and clashes between the local militia and the Myanmar security forces have taken place in the copper mines of Sagaing Region.
The ongoing political crisis in Myanmar was also discussed by Quad leaders at the Tokyo summit last month. The leaders of the four member countries – India, US, Australia, and Japan – expressed concern over the crisis and called for the swift restoration of democracy with the urgent implementation of the ASEAN Five Point Consensus.
To exert pressure on the junta regime, the French Embassy in Myanmar announced that the European Union and its Member States had renewed their restrictive measures on several individuals and entities "involved in the military takeover, responsible for undermining democracy and rule of law in Myanmar, and contributing directly or indirectly to military regime's revenues/activities."
Reports from Myanmar suggest a strong likelihood of anti-resistance forces gaining further ground, with a significant risk of resumption of fighting in the Rakhine State. The region in Myanmar's western coast has remained largely quiet since last year's coup. But the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed organisation based in Rakhine State, has gradually walked away from its compact with the junta, in a setback to the regime's efforts to lure other groups to the peace table.
Tun Myat Naing, the commander in chief of the Arakan Army, warned about a possible attack against the Western Regional Military Command if the military activities continued to expand in Rakhine, the region which saw large scale exodus of Rohingya Muslims. The spokesperson of State Administration Council chairman Min Aung Hlaing, however, said that the regime has no intention to fight with the Arakanese group.
Meanwhile, a US-based representative of a Rohingya insurgent group active in northern Rakhine announced that the outfit has planned to start fighting against the junta within two years, appealing the refugees to donate funds to support their cause.
While the possibility of conflict between the warring parties is likely to escalate further, the anti-China sentiments are creating new crises for the junta. With deepening domestic crises and lingering uncertainty over the international recognition of the military regime is set to exert more pressure on the government.