Wednesday, February 1, 2023

2022 MYANMAR YEAR-END ROUNDUP: No end of civil war in sight

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As the year ends, Myanmar or Burma continues to be saddled with ongoing civil war raging across the country and no possibility of changing the situation from zero-sum, win-lose to mutually beneficial win-win game out come.

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The reason why the two main adversary groups, ethnic-democratic alliance and military junta or SAC, have been at loggerheads is that both camps consider that they are doing the right thing for their prospective bases and most importantly because it is an existential necessity for survival.

The ethnic-democratic alliance position is that the military junta is the biggest obstacle in trying to establish a federal democratic union and uprooting it is the only way to go through on behalf of the people, which it considered to be its electoral base.

As for the SAC, the military class is its base and it has to do everything that it stays at the helm of the political decision-making power structure by all means, as it is the only way to maintain its supremacy position in political arena and protect its top brass and its institutional interest economically and politically.

In short, the positions of both camps are polarized with no possibility and intention to negotiate and even calling each other “terrorist organization”.

Now let us look at the situation of the ethnic states and divisions or regions of the past year so that we may be able to speculate what lies ahead in 2023.

Ethnic Armed Groups Photo The Asia Foundation
Ethnic Armed Groups. Photo: The Asia Foundation.

Ethnic states

The main EAOs involved in the armed conflict, directly and indirectly are: Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Chin National Front (CNF), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA), Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army (KNPP/KA), Karen National Union/ Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA), Karen National Liberation Army- Peace Council (KNLA-PC), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) or Kokang, National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) or Mongla, New Mon State Party (NMSP), Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), Palaung State Liberation Party/ Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLP/TNLA), United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA), United Wa State Party/Army (UWSAP/UWSA).

Generally four types of EAOs could be categorized: Those sympathized with the Bamar and democratic opposition groups and also helped trained and partly equipped them with weapons; those that are indifferent and see it as National League for Democracy (NLD)-SAC Bamar conflict and won’t have anything to do with it; those that takes the opportunity to broaden their territories to be in a better bargaining position when the time comes for political settlement or negotiation, “make hay while the sun shines” sort of attitude; and those that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in October 2015 and cling to it arguing that they signed the truce to be engaged in political dialogue and peaceful settlement and not war and thus refuse to be drawn into the armed conflict.

Arakan State

Since the military coup in February 2021 the informal ceasefire reached between the AA and the junta, which was agreed in October 2020 before the general election, was gearing to breakdown.

In the aftermath of the coup until the end of 2021 no armed conflict was registered. But a few minor clashes occurred in February, April and May 2022 between the junta, mainly due to fact that the junta wasn’t happy with the AA’s administration expansion and saw it as a rivalry to replace its system of military supremacy rule, including AA’s military recruitment and build-up. There were also continuous frictions because AA and junta were arresting each others’ functionaries, backers and sympathizers, in a tit-for-tat manner at the ground level, as the rivalry became intense.

In July the 2022 the informal ceasefire broke down due to the junta’s airstrikes on AA positions in Karen State where it maintained a few bases and six of its soldiers were killed. The AA retaliated and the armed clashes spread to most of the Arakan’s northern regions and also Paletwa in Chin State.

However, on 26 November, AA and the SAC reached an informal humanitarian ceasefire agreement mediated by the Nippon Foundation Chairman Mr Sasakawa. However, how long this truce will hold is not clear as there is no time frame attacked to it and the conditions are vague.

ISP-Myanmar, ISP Data Matters Report Number 37 (b) on 22 November 2022 stated 48 armed clashes in Arakan State within the time span from 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022.

Chin State

Since the February military coup on February 2021 Chin resistance forces have been actively resisting the SAC rule, which is headed by the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) and the Chin National Defence Force (CNDF), to bolster the protection offered to the state by the more well-established military force that has been present in Chin since 1988, the Chin National Army (CNA), armed wing of the CNF.

In 30 September 2021, Chinland Joint Defence Committee (CJDC) was formed which included 18 group members. On 5 December 2021, it was officially agreed that Chinland Defence Force (CDF) will be changed to CJDC.

The CJDC members are: Chin National Army (CNA), CDF Kanpetlet, CDF Mindat, CDF Hakha, CDF Matupi, CDF Paletwa, CDF Thantlang, CDF Mara, CDF Zotung, CDF Zophei, CDF Lautu, CDF Tonzang, PDF Zoland, CDF Hualngoram, CDF (CDM) Siyin, CDF Kalay Township, Kabaw Valley and Gangaw Township (KKG), CDF Daai, and Chin National Organization’s (CNO) CNDF (Falam).

Fighting which started out shortly after the military coup in February 2021 continued all throughout the year 2022 in nine townships of Chin State. The Chin resistance groups were able to deny the control of their state to the junta and as a result has only be able to hold up its presence in urban areas, but still being constantly breached and harassed by the resistance forces.

In a report by Burma News International on 22 November, spokesman for CNF Salai Htet Ni said: “When it comes to territorial control, we’ve to talk about the popular support at the same time. First of all, we can say that we’ve the full support of the people. More people in Chin State live in rural areas than in urban areas. In such a situation, the public is on our side. The forces of the CNA and CDF operate mainly in the rural areas of all nine townships up to the Sagaing Region. We’re mainly active in the nine townships of Chin State. We’ve brought more than 70 percent of the land under our control. The proof of this is the fact that we’re already operating our own health and education facilities in the rural areas.”

According to CJDC statements of 3 February and 11 August 2022, from January to end of July there were 291 armed clashes, where 73 CJDC were killed in action and SAC suffered 1,124 killed in action. 20 CJDC, 15 civilians and 68 SAC soldiers were wounded.
ISP-Myanmar, ISP Data Matters Report Number 37 (b) on 22 November 2022 stated 588 armed clashes in Chin State within the time span of 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022.

Kachin State

The KIA and SAC clashes started since 2009 continue after the military coup in February 2021 until today, which the former cooperated with the anti-junta forces by providing sanctuary to the pro-democracy activists and ousted parliamentary members. It even go so far to train and arm the opposition anti-junta forces from all over the country, especially from Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay regions up to these days.

Ever since then, the KIO has operated in northern part of Sagaing Region by cooperating with the local PDFs which it has helped trained and largely equipped, primarily in order to cut the supply lines of the SAC troops. Additionally it has full command control of the not less than 5,000 strong Kachin People’s Defence Forces (KPDF) which it helped created. KIA is said to field about 20,000 troops which includes militias.

Thus the KIA is involved in the civil war and continue to do so in clashes in Katha, Indaw, Homlin, Pinlebu, Kawlin, Wuntho and Tigyaing of the upper Sagaing Region, including attacking the SAC’s riverine vessels, carrying troops and weapons up the Ayeyarwaddy River, together with the PDF forces in northern Sagaing, according to the analyst Ye Myo Hein.

Another area outside Kachin State which the KIA operates is the northern Shan State of Namkham-Muse and Kutkai areas, of which the latter was where the Kachin revolution or KIA first come into existence in 1961.

The KIA presence in northern Shan State are in the southern part of the Lashio-Muse Road with the 4th Brigade; in the northern part of the Kukai-Muse Road with the 6th Brigade; and perches along the Hseni-Kunlong road with the 10th Brigade.

The 1st Brigade of the KIA is based in Putao, Sumprabum, the 7th Brigade in Chipwi, Hpunre, the 2nd Brigade in Tanai, Shingbwiyang, the 9th Brigade in Hpakant, the 8th Brigade in Mohnyin, Namsi Awng, the 3rd Brigade in Bhamo and the 5th Brigade in Sadon. It also maintains a Light Infantry Brigade and Central Guard Brigade, and the total number of battalions under the twelve brigades is 52, according to Ye Myo Hein.

According to the ISP-Myanmar statistics for the time span 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022, the total armed clashes within the Kachin State was 213 and ranked 8th in countrywide armed engagement count. However, no casualty figures were released from either KIA or the SAC as is always the case.

After the A Nan Pa airstrikes killing some 70 civilians and KIA combatants during the concert in October, the KIA is more determined to fight and recently on 15 December General Gun Maw, vice-chairman of the KIO in an interview with RFA said that the Kachin people are with the NUG, cooperating with its Ministry of Defence and the Central Command and Coordination Committee (C3C) militarily in trying to uproot the military dictatorship and establish federal democratic union.

Shan State

Shan war theatre is perhaps the most sophisticated and complicated compare to the other conflict areas.

The non-Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement-EAOs (non-NCA-EAOs) UWSA, NDAA, MNDAA, TNLA, SSPP, and KIA operate in the Shan State’s northern and north-east. From these groups TNLA, MNDAA and KIA battled with the SAC on-and-off, although the SSPP also fought quite seldom in the second half of the year with the SAC, due to it’s demand to withdraw from three of its positions in southern Shan State.

In addition there were also on-and-off firefights between the two Shan armies RCSS and the SSPP. The former withdrew from the northern Shan State completely at the end of 2021, which it had encroached upon after the signing of NCA in October 2015. However, the SSPP intruded further into the RCSS stomping ground in the south, said to be with the help of UWSA which the SSPP denied.

Some said that the RCSS asked the SAC to help evict the SSPP from its former operational territories which might have prompted the SAC to ask for withdrawal of the three military positions in southern Shan State, which the SSPP rejected.

Perhaps in a bid to stem the tide of armed confrontation, the RCSS in 10 October 2022 released a statement proposing: “to engage in dialogues with all concerned parties and to turn to each other, to reduce misunderstanding and enhance understanding, to build trust, to be able to solves political problems through political means, for the people of Shan State and the Union.”

But this initiative that will end on 10 February 2023 so far has received no response from all EAOs within Shan State.

Another flash point and fierce conflict zone is the southern tip of Shan State bordering Karenni or Kayah State, which are Pekon and Moebye towns in Pekon Township, Taunggyi District, adjacent to Demoso and Loikaw townships in Karenni State.

Nawnghkio Township, northern Shan State also saw armed clashes between the Mandalay PDF, sometimes in collaboration with TNLA, against the SAC troops.

Almost all EAOs in Shan State are not in league with the NUG unlike the other ethnic states in fighting the SAC but stay aloof and more inclined to advance their political interests and agendas of acquiring more territories and self-rule, although TNLA and MNDAA used to state their sympathy of the NUG and the Spring Revolution in the media.

According to ISP-Myanmar statistics for the time span 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022, the total armed clashes within the Shan State is 291 and ranked 6th in countrywide armed engagement count.

Karenni (Kayah) State

During the year Karenni State has been experiencing heavy airstrikes and aerial bombardment, coupled with continuous artillery attacks, including scorched earth campaign by the SAC. But the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) claimed that 90 percent of the junta’s administration has ceased to function. The KNPP also confirmed that the junta’s troops mostly did not venture out from their barracks, even in big towns that they claimed to control.

The main actors prominently featuring in the media are the KA, armed wing of KNPP and KNDF, although numerous assorted PDFs and LDFs are also participating in the resistance. For instance, on April 6th, 2022, the Karenni Revolution Union (KRU) was formed with six revolutionary forces which emerged after the coup, namely the Karenni Generation-Z (KGZ), the Karenni Democratic Front (KDF), the Fight for Justice (JPDF), the GZ-21 (Loikaw), Medic Unit and the Southern Shan People Defence Force (SSPDF), according to the Kantarawaddy Times.

Karenni State Deputy Minister of Defence Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) Secretary-1 Khu Daniel on 5 December told Myanmar Now that 75 to 80 percent that emerged from the Spring Revolution considered KA chief of staff as their own. A few PDFs are under the NUG, but the KNPP would cooperate with any organization that are against the SAC.

The Karenni State Consultative Council (KSCC) includes the Kayah State Democratic Party (KYSDP), the Kayan National Party (KNP), the National League for Democracy (NLD), five ethnic armed organisations, and the KNDF, an armed group formed after the coup, according to the Myanmar Now report of 30 April.

The KNPP criticised the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) for announcing plans on April 24 to reform its administrative processes without properly consulting local EAOs, according to the Myanmar Now report of 30 April.

The conflict zones are mainly in Demoso, Hpruso, Loikaw in Karenni and adjacent Pekon, and Mobye in southern Shan State, even though sporadic clashes took place across the whole Karenni State.

According to Progressive Karenni People Force (PKPF) statement of 1 December, from 1 February 2021 to 30 November 2022, 284 civilians, 116 IDPs, 184 Karenni resistance forces were killed in 545 armed clashes, including 173 junta’s airstrikes. Also 27 religious buildings were destroyed, 1293 houses damaged. Moreover, 1656 SAC troops were killed, 58 SAC vehicles destroyed, and 278 civilian detained.

But according to ISP-Myanmar statistics for the time span 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022, the total armed clashes within the Karenni State were only 339.

Karen State

Even prior to the February 2021 military coup, part of the KNU, particularly the KNU Brigade 5 area has been the hotbed of armed clashes, due to the Myanmar military’s expansion into its area through road-building or upgrading the existing roads. The KNU protested this but the military never considered to scale back, thus armed conflict in this area has never stopped. Even then the KNU leadership led by General Muto Say Poe was trying to stick to the NCA-based peace negotiation process.

However, the military coup changed the situation at first reluctantly by providing sanctuary to those who fled the cities, many of whom are young generation and NLD members, and also providing military training by the KNU to fight back the military junta, primarily in their homesteads.

But in December 2021, junta attacked Lay Kay Kaw village, which had sheltered pro-democratic dissidents, leading to the escalation of armed conflict and thereby forcing the reluctant KNU to enter the civil war fray and morphed into a full-blown conflict in 2022 that covered almost the whole Karen State, part of Mon State, part of Bago and even the Tanintharyi Region.

According to Ye Myo Hein, “The Sit-Tat (SAC) has deployed over fifty battalions of the 11th Light Infantry Division, the 22nd, the 44th, the 66th, Military Operations Command (MOC) No. 6, 8, 13, 19 and 20, in addition to battalions from South East Regional Command, Coastal Regional Command, and its controlled Border Guard Forces.”

It is believed that the KNU fields 20,000 troops and the PDF amounts to 10,000 fighters, making the total anti-junta combatants of about 30,000.

On 13 September 2022 KNU General Headquarters released battle statistics statement for the time span of the 20 months from January 2021 to August 2022 as follows:

The military wing of KNU, Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in Nyaung Lay Pin District Brigade (3) and Muttaw District Brigade (5), including Karen National Defence Force (KNDO) troops, clashed with junta troops and Border Guard Force (BGF) troops frequently on daily basis since the military coup.

During this period, the KNLA, KNDO troops and junta plus Border Guard Force (BGF) troops fought and clashed for 6,356 time, where 5,125 troops of the junta side were killed and 4,174 wounded. 137 of the KNLA and KNDO troopers were killed and 352 were injured. The KNLA and KNDO forces also attacked and destroyed 9 major military bases of the junta or SAC.

A total of 4,456 intentional shooting were aimed and fired at the people. A total of 117 targeted air raids jet fighters and helicopters were used in attacking the KNLA, KNDO and the villages, including at the villagers’ work places.

The intentional firing with heavy guns at the people and villages killed 131 innocent people were killed and 294 were injured due to airstrikes. A total of 412 innocent people were arrested without reason by the junta and threatened with interrogation. They were also used as porters and human shields.

As a result of intentional firing of heavy weapons the airstrikes at the villages and people 37,1958 people have fled their homes and businesses to safer areas. Most of them were children, students, elderly people and disabled persons.

On 6 December 2022, KNU General Headquarters released a statement of battle statistics for the month of November 2022. According to it there were nearly 300 clashes between the two sides in the KNU area.

Reportedly, KNU announced that there were 290 clashes where 333 members of the Military Council were killed and 237 were injured. Similarly, 30 KNU soldiers were killed and 68 wounded during the fighting.

According to KNU’s statement, out of the seven districts, which are the KNU administrative areas, Brigade (1) Thaton District; Brigade (2) Toungoo District; Brigade (3) Nyaung Lay Pin District; Brigade (4) Dawei District; Brigade (5) Hpapun (Mutaw) District; Brigade (6) Dooplaya District; junta and KNU both sides fought fiercely, and in Brigade (7) area of Hpa-an District, there was no fighting this month.

The statement said there were 33 clashes between the two sides in the area of Brigade (1), 44 members of the Military Council were killed and 41 were injured.

Similarly, in the area of the 2nd Brigade, there were 17 clashes between the two sides, and 53 members of the Military Council were killed and 10 were injured.

In addition, in the area of the 3rd Brigade, there were 30 clashes between the two sides, and 40 members of the Military Council were killed and 29 were injured.

In Dawei District, the area of the 4th Brigade, where there had been less fighting in the past, there were 41 battles in November, and 48 of the military council troops were killed and 26 were injured.

In Hpapun (Mutaw) District, which is the area of the 5th Brigade, the most fighting occurred, and during 116 battles, 69 members of the Military Council were killed and 51 were injured.

In November, the highest number of military council members were killed and 80 others were injured in Dooplaya district, which is the territory of the KNU Brigade (6), where 79 members of the military council were killed.

It is reported that 20 military vehicles of the Military Council were also destroyed during the fighting.

According to ISP-Myanmar 4,394 armed clashes, which is the highest within the country, were registered for the time span 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022.

Mon State

Mon State political and military can be generally categorized into three groups, namely: the junta’s political ally; those engaging in NCA-based peace talks; and those politically and militarily resisting the military junta.

The first category of junta allies includes: Mon Unity Party (MUP) that practically works with the junta or SAC; and Mon Peace Defence Force (MPDF) that left NMSP in 2010 and become local pro-junta militias.

The second one which is involved in NCA-based peace talks is the NMSP. It was a bit reluctant after the first peace talks meeting which was initiated by the junta due to Mon public pressure to reject it. But nevertheless it opted for the second meeting during the year, which angered many of the Mon people.

The third category those politically and militarily resisting the military junta includes: Mon State Interim Coordination Committee (MSICC), a member of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), which is part of parallel NUG setup; the Mon State Defence Force (MDSF), operating under NUG command. The MDSF (North) is active in Thaton Township while MDSF (South) operates in Ye Township.

Other local resistance groups which was said to number about nine according to the ISP-Myanmar count last year fighting the junta, including Ye Belu and the Mon State Revolutionary Organization.

Most Mon local resistance groups owe their existence to KNU whose territories are adjacent to the Karen State and thus are natural allies.

On 3 October, a resistance coalition has been formed led by KNU’s Brigade 1 based in Thaton District with 24 PDFs. The are PDFs from Paung, Bilin, Thaton and Theinzayat towns in Mon State operating under the direct command of KNU Brigade 1.

Another new resistance group is said to be in the making with base in Mudon and Thanphyuzayat with the help of the Three Brotherhood Alliance, consisting of AA, TNLA and MNDAA, according to the media reports.

In Mon State, Bilin, Kyaikto, Thaton, Kyaikmaraw, Mudon and Ye townships are main conflict areas with clashes also going on in other townships.

According to ISP-Myanmar statistics for the time span 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022, the total armed clashes within the Mon State was 244 and ranked 8th among states and regions.

Military regime 1
Military regime.

Conflict in Seven Regions

The Sagaing, Magway, Mandalay, Bago, Ayeyawaddy, Yangon and Tanintharyi regions all are in revolt against the junta. The Anyar or Dry Zone which includes the combination of the first three regions is the hotbed of Bamar majority resistance epicentre, while the others are involved to a lesser extent.

Dry Zone War Theatre

Without doubt Anyar area also known as Dry Zone which includes Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay regions and populated by majority Bamar is an epicentre of the Bamar people’s resistance to the military dictatorship. The resistance movements in Anyar that started shortly after the February 2021 military coup by the military junta created a widespread armed resistance and political disobedience by the people continues in 2022. The junta in turn responded with scorched earth, roving offensives deploying numerous troops supported by artillery, armoured vehicles and airstrikes to systematically flush out the resistance forces of PDFs, under the NUG, and other numerous LDFs some affiliated to the NUG and some operating independently.

“Besides the Tatmadaw (junta’s troops), the key conflict actors in the Dry Zone are SAC-allied Pyusawhti militia and anti-SAC PDFs, both of which comprise Bamar-Buddhist civilians without prior combat experience. EAOs are not significant actors here. The forces are unevenly matched: while the Tatmadaw reinforces the Pyusawhti with heavy weaponry, armoured vehicles, and aircraft, the PDFs fight with improvised explosives, makeshift weapons, and small arms. Yet a decisive victory for the regime is not in sight; instead the Dry Zone is experiencing a painful war of attrition. At present, PDFs are making minor gains – successfully ambushing Tatmadaw columns, upgrading their weaponry, and growing increasingly organised – even as the SAC sets fire to communities suspected of supporting PDFs. For both PDF and Pyusawhti members, the fight is existential. The Dry Zone also illustrates how the coup has destabilised day-to-day social relations, with communities polarised along the lines of the conflict, creating a patchwork of pro-SAC and anti-SAC villages,” according to “Post-coup Myanmar in six warscapes” – 10 June 2022, published by The International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The actors involved primarily in this ongoing civil war are the SAC forces with its militias Pyusawhti on one side and the PDFs, LDFs and their EAO allies like the KIA and CNF in Sagaing Region, including the AA in Magway Region to a lesser extent which helped train and party equipped the PDFs adjacent to its area.

According to Ye Myo Hein’s recent report in United States Institute of Peace on 3 November 2022, People’s Defence Force is a general understanding for three types of armed groups that emerged after the coup in February 2021. They are PDFs, Local Defence Forces (LDFs) and People’s Defence Teams (PaKhaPha/PDTs). The PDFs formed by NUG parallel shadow government that operate under joint command system with some EAOs; the LDFs local resistance militias that operate autonomously and locally; and the PDTs are localized guerilla units formed for local defence and security purposes. The PDFs are sort of regular army which operate across the states/regions’ townships, whereas the LDFs and PDTs are self-defence or community security militias operating at the community level.

Accordingly, there are roughly 65,000 total PDF troops. Approximately 20 percent of PDF troops are equipped with military-grade weapons and another 40 percent have home-made weapons. As of October 2022, there were around 300 PDF battalions with 200 to 500 troops each. Sixty-three additional battalions are awaiting NUG recognition.

“The PDFs in ethnic areas are operationally commanded by or affiliated with EAOs. For example, the KPDF is under the command of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the CDF is under the control of Chinland Joint Defence Committee (CJDC) and the KNDF is closely affiliated with the Karenni Army (KA) of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).”

“There are currently three military division commands (MDCs). Some 200 PDF units currently operate under the command of MDC 1 with responsibility for the Kachin, Anyar (Central Myanmar) and Chin theatres. Approximately 50 PDFs operate in the areas of MDCs 2 and 3 which manage operations in the Karen and Karenni theatres, respectively.”

The NUG estimates that there were 401 LDFs as of April 2022 and recent analysis estimates that there are at least 30,000 LDF personnel. They are self-funded, primarily through community and diaspora donations and rely mostly on home-made weapons, though some LDFs are connected with large EAOs which provide training and equipment. The LDFs are engaged in guerilla warfare through landmines, skirmishes, sabotage and targeted killings, with the primary aim to deny the SAC control over rural areas.

The PDTs are formed by the NUG, specializing in urban guerilla warfare, basic training for new resistance fighters, logistics, public mobilization and PDF support. They have been formed in 250 out of 330 townships.

Cumulative number of Anti-SAC reported in the Dry Zone since February 2021 military coup by The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on 5 July 2022 showed a steadily rising conflict data from April 2021 to October 2022.

Accordingly, conflict count in 2021: April 1 time, May 7 times, June 14 times, July 26 times, August 36 times, September 62 times, October 117 times, November 172 times, and December 224 times.

Conflict count in 2022: January 282 times, February 325 times, March 359 times, April 412 times, May 458 times, June 523 times, July 575 times, August 599 times, September 617 times, and October 654 times.

According to ISP-Myanmar statistics for the time span 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022, the total armed clashes within the Anyar or Dry Zone were 1333, of which 919 were in Sagaing Region, 341 in Magway Region, and 73 in Mandalay Region. Thus the Dry Zone ranked 2nd in armed clash count among all states and regions within the country.

But regardless of differing data and statistics mentioned above, a compilation gathered from Myanmar Now news reports on areas where armed conflict occurred and the level of intensity by districts and townships can be listed as below.

From January to November 2022 in Sagaing Region, most conflict happened in the district of Kale, Shwebo, Yinmabin, Sagaing districts; and to a lesser extent, Monywa, Katha, Kawlin, Kanbalu, and Tamu districts.

The townships are: Kale, Khin-U, Wetlet, Taze, Tabayin, Ye-U, Yinmabi, Kani, Salingyi, Pale, Myinmu, Myaung, Budalin, Katha, Indaw, Kawlin, Pinlebu, Kanbalu, and Tamu.

In Magway Region, most conflict occurred in Pakokku and Gangaw districts, and to a lesser extent Magway and Minbu districts.

The townships are: Pauk, Pakokku, Yesagyo, Myaing, Natmauk, Pwintbyu, Gangaw, and Saw.

In Mandalay Region, minor clashes were registered in Wundwin, Amarapura, Taungtha, Maha Aungmyay, Singu, and Madaya townships, with the junta mostly hunting the urban guerilla units and a few attacks initiated by the latter.

Like elsewhere all over the country, the civil war situation in Dry Zone or Anyar involves offensives of the junta through artillery bombardment, airstrikes using jet fighters, attack helicopters and surprise raids using infantry troops, together with its Pyusawhti militias aimed at the camps of PDFs and LDFs, and the population suspected of aiding or sympathetic to them. However, the major portion of attacks were directed at towns and villages using scorched-earth policy.

The anti-junta setups in response attack the junta and its militias positions whenever and wherever they can and ambush them with landmines and assorted firearms when the junta troops are on the move. Besides, the junta’s informers, administrators and all facilitators are considered enemy targets and are treated as such.

Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing
Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

Other regions

Bago, Yangon, Ayeyawaddy, and Tanintharyi regions are affected by the civil war but to a lesser extend in comparison to the Anyar or Dry Zone.

However out of the four regions, conflicts are more intense in Bago and Tanintaryi regions.

In Bago Region, the KNU Brigade 3 operates in Bago and Taungoo district with the Bago Region PDFs and PDTs against the junta, while they usually operate by themselves in the rest of the region’s townships.

The ISP-Myanmar listed for 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022 the armed clashes for Bago Region as 259. In Tanintaryi the armed clashes count indicated 107, Yangon 30, Ayeyawaddy 8, and Naypyitaw 1.

Conflict Data

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), known as AAPP, a human rights organization based in Mae Sot, Thailand and Rangoon, as of 23 December 2022 since 1 February 2021, at least 900 houses and buildings have been sealed off by the junta. A total of 2641 people, pro-democracy activists and other civilians have been killed through military crackdowns. Moreover, a total of 13,116 people are currently under detention, 1778 of whom are serving sentences. There are a total of 97 post-coup death row prisoners. 121 people have been sentenced in absentia, of whom 42 have been sentenced to death. This makes a total of 139 people who have been sentenced to death. 24 people have been released on bail and 3452 people have already been released. While these are the numbers verified by AAPP, the actual numbers may likely be much higher.

As of 21 October 2022, Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) documented 27,063 people were killed after the February 2021 military coup. However, it is not clear as there is no separation of civilians and combatants killed.

As of 3 December 2022, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented that more than 1.4 million people are displaced across the country, of whom more than 1.1 million were displaced since the 2021 military takeover.

Data for Myanmar during May 2021 to November 2022 documented 38,383 civilian properties burnt or destroyed. As of 30 November 2022, the military and its affiliated groups burned down 27,496 civilian houses in Sagaing Region, making it the most hard-hit region, followed by 7818 houses in Magway, and 1475 houses in Chin State.

According to the data, 419 houses in Kayah (Karenni) State, 414 houses in Kachin State, 221 houses in Mon State, 174 houses in Mandalay Region, 133 houses in southern Shan State, 119 houses in Tanintharyi Region, 81 houses in Bago Region, 20 in Karen State, and 13 houses in Rakhine (Arakan) State.

ISP-Myanmar documented deaths by townships because of airstrikes, from 1 February 2021 to 25 October 2022 as at least 216 people killed. Hpakant Township is the most affected with at least 72 people killed, followed by townships of Yinmabin 20, Depayin 20, Momauk 12, Kanbalu 12, Myinmu 8, Hpapun 8, Nyaungshwe 5, Kyaukkyi 5, Kutkai 5, Demoso 5, Kawlin 4, Myawaddy 3, Kawkareik 3, Thaton 2, Mingin 2, Minbya 2, Loikaw 2, Banmauk 2, Ye-U 1, Wetlet 1, Pauk 1, and Kani 1.

Except for the A Nan Pa Village airstrikes in Hpakant Township, Kachin State, where a mixture of civilians and KIA troops were killed while they were attending a concert to make the Kachin revolution day on 23 October, all the rest townships were mostly civilians killed, according to ISP-Myanmar.
ISP-Myanmar documented from 1 February 2021 to 15 November 2022, 7,855 armed clashes across the country, with Karen State the highest 4,393 clashes, followed by Sagaing Region with at least 919 clashes. Reportedly, clashes erupted in a total of 191 townships.

Perspectives

The resistance against the military junta rule is widespread in all states and regions, except for the Shan State and Arakan State. Even then, pockets of areas in the northern and southern Shan State armed clashes were reported on-and-off all through out the year, with the junta’s massive offensives conducted against the TNLA in December before the year end. During the end of November and beginning of December the junta also tried to dislodge the MNDAA or Kokang from its positions in northern Shan State close to the Chinese border, without success. The KIA routinely clashed with the junta on-and-off also. The southern part of Shan State, close to the Karenni border in Pekon and Moebye areas are also active conflict war zones between the junta and local PDFs, LDFs and sometimes in collaboration with the Karenni PDFs.

The AA after two years of armed engagement from 2018 to 2020 agreed an informal ceasefire in November 2020 until July 2022. However the ceasefire broke down after July and the armed conflict reignited again until November for four months. This ended again when humanitarian ceasefire was agreed upon through a Japanese mediator Dr. Sasakawa. However, how long this informal ceasefire will hold is an open question, as the agreement is vague and no time frame is attached to the informal humanitarian ceasefire agreement.

The Chin, Kachin, Karenni and Karen states’ EAOs and their respective local PDFs are solidly behind the battle cry of “no negotiation and uprooting the military dictatorship” as a top priority so that federal democratic union can be established. Thus they are working in collaboration with the NUG and this trend is gaining momentum.

In Mon State, the NMSP, the main EAO within the state, is keen to negotiate peace with the junta and thus is left out of the resistance fray. But numerous local PDFs and KNU Brigade 1 are nevertheless engaged in the fight against the junta on Mon State soil.

As for the seven regions, the epicentre for Bamar ethnic resistance is Anyar or Dry Zone, which includes Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay. The rest regions are also in resistance but to a lesser extent. However, Bago and Tanintharyi regions are beefing up their resistance movements, both with the help of KNLA as they are adjacent to its operational areas.

In short almost the whole country is resisting the junta’s rule militarily.

Politically, the junta has not been able to make headway to replace Kyaw Moe Tun, who recently on 12 December is allowed to retain his U.N. ambassador position on behalf of the NUG for another year by U.N. credentials committee, although this doesn’t mean the recognition of the NUG at this moment in time. It is understood as preserving a member’s country seat and not particularly endorsing any of the two rival governments, the NUG and SAC.

However, some countries like China, India, Russia and Thailand are going about with junta’s recognition to represent the country is somewhat not according to the UN trend of non-recognition to any of the contenders.

While China takes caution not to be so pro-junta, Russia is outright supporting the junta. In a recent UNSC resolution demanding to free all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint, Russia, China and India abstain to vote, but the resolution passed with a very high majority.

Thailand also recently host an informal meeting with junta’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, together with its Cambodian, Laotion and Vietnamese counterparts, all communist and autocratic regimes, thereby breaching the ASEAN countries’ agreement of not to do anything that would look like endorsing the junta’s regime.

Moreover, the United States House of Representatives on 7 December passed a compromise version of the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), and on 15 December the senate also overwhelmingly approved it, which pledges to provide non-military assistance and to engage with Myanmar’s EAOs and the resistance forces collectively known as People’s Defence Forces (PDF). The US President Biden on 23 December signed the bill. This move has uplifted the ethnic-democratic opposition groups’ psychologically for the time being, but what will come out practically from this bill when it becomes law is still an open question.

For 2023, the junta is determined to hold general election by all means, coupled with annihilation offensive campaigns against all of its oppositions countrywide and instil fear and intimidation among the population so that the public will be subdued, cowed and submit to its rule. This two-pronged strategy seems to be the way the junta has chosen to embark upon, taken cue from what it has done since the military coup and continuing it.

In such a polarized situation between adversaries within the country, there is very little likelihood that the ongoing civil war will somehow resolve or come to an end, but more likely to escalate militarily. And politically, the fight to win legitimacy and recognition between the SAC and NUG will as usual continue in U.N. and international arena, if the development trends of the whole year are to be taken as indications.

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