Myanmar’s Masters of War

November 29th, 2016  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
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As Myanmar’s[1] myriad of conflicts persist, critics of the National League for Democracy-led Government continue to question the extent to which the country’s leadership is capable of achieving a nationwide peace. The recent military offensives, in the north, northeast and west of the country, demonstrates either the inability or unwillingness of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to rein in the Myanmar Army, or to take a strong stance and speak out against the violations and abuses towards the country’s ethnic and religious minorities, including violence and persecution against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State.

In many regions of Myanmar, there is little indication that conflict will slow down anytime soon. In Shan State, a coalition of ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), the “Northern Alliance” that includes the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Kachin Independence Army, the ethnic Kokang, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army, has formed in a joint effort against Myanmar Army installations in the region. The first attack of the EAOs occurred in the area around the border town of Muse on 20 November and resulted in at least ten deaths, 29 injuries, the displacement of 2,700 residents, along with a large number of people attempting to seek safety by crossing the border into China. The rationale behind the forming of the EAO alliance and subsequent attacks were summarized by Mong Aik Kyaw, a spokesperson for the TNLA, who stated:

“If we continued just defending against the military’s continuous offensives in our Ta’ang areas, all of us must suffer and feel aggrieved. Almost 10,000 Tatmadaw troops have come to our area and launched offensives [during October and November]. We, all of us, decided to operate on the offensive.”

Mong Aik Kyaw, TNLA spokesperson

Subsequent attacks, including the use of improvised-explosive-devices and artillery shelling from both the EAO alliance and the Myanmar Army, have occurred following the events around Muse with the official death toll reaching 13 with over 6,ooo people displaced. In response to the escalating violence, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi released a statement urging all EAOs to refrain from conflict and to participate in the peace process by signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. However, an earlier statement from the EAOs on 21 November suggests that any attempt to initiate a peace dialogue has – and will continue to be – undermined by the Myanmar Army’s aggressive military operations throughout the north. Khu Oo Reh, head of the Delegation for Political Negotiation of the United Nationalities Federal Council further explained, “There will be no solution if positive approaches to solutions are ignored and more flames are added to the fire.”

Renewed fighting in Kachin State that began in August of this year also appears to show little evidence of slowing down. In addition to displacing civilians, the Myanmar Army has been accused of preventing valuable aid distribution to those in dire need living in the conflict zones, while also blocking ethnic Ta’ang villagers from taking rice back from Namkham town to their villages in case it reaches EAOs.

“There will be no solution if positive approaches to solutions are ignored and more flames are added to the fire.”

Khu Oo Reh, head of the Delegation for Political Negotiation of the United Nationalities Federal Council

Meanwhile, the Women’s League of Burma, along with Asia Justice and Rights, marked the International Day to End Violence Against Women with a report on yet another harrowing reality of conflict with the Myanmar Army – state-sponsored sexual violence. Analyzing over 90 cases of sexual violence between 2010 and 2015, largely committed by the Myanmar Army in conflict areas around Shan and Kachin States, the briefing paper found that only five of these cases have been tried in civilian courts, allowing those guilty of the crimes to be left unpunished. The paper points to the 2008 Constitution, which provides impunity for members of Myanmar’s armed forces by allowing the military amnesty from crimes committed during active duty along with the right to prosecute their own members outside of civilian or independent courts.

Outside of Kachin and Shan State, conflict and unrest rages on in Rakhine State. John McKissick, representing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangladesh, spoke of the “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya minority. In his interview he said the Myanmar Army has been “…killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, [and] forcing these people to cross the river” into neighboring Bangladesh. The ongoing military offensive in the region has been justified as a necessary response to the 9 October attacks on border guard outposts, allegedly perpetrated by a Rohingya armed group.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s continual attempt to involve EAOs in the peace process is missing a key component – a declaration condemning the actions and offensives of the Myanmar Army. While gaining control of the military is a daunting task, the de-facto leader of Myanmar’s government must at the very least be willing to publicly denounce the actions of the Myanmar Army. By holding the military accountable for its direct role in perpetrating and escalating armed conflict, the Myanmar Government can begin to bridge the political divides that have plagued the country for so long.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases


Bangladesh Pushes Rohingya Refugees  Back Amid Collective Punishment in Myanmar
By Amnesty International

Allow Safe Passage to Bangladesh for Persecuted Rohingya
By Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network

Launch of AJAR’s manual “Unlearning Impunity: A Guide to Understanding and Action for Women Survivors
By  Asia Justice and Rights

ျမန္မာႏိုုင္ငံတြင္ ႏိုင္ငံေတာ္အာဏာပိုင္အဖြဲ ့အစည္းမ်ားက က်ဴးလြန္ေသာ လိင္ပိုင္းဆိုင္ရာ အၾကမ္းဖက္မႈမ်ားအတြက္ အျပစ္ေပးမႈမရွိေသာစနစ္မ်ားအဆံုုးသတ္ရန္ ေဆြးေႏြးသံုုးသပ္ခ်က္အသစ္ျဖင့္ ေတာင္းဆိုုလိုုက္သည္။
By Asia Justice and Rights and Women’s League of Burma

ANNI Statement: Burma/Myanmar Must Protect Human Rights for All and Ensure Independent Investigations into Alleged Violations in Rakhine State
By Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions

Burma Campaign UK Delivers Rohingya Petition to the Burmese Embassy in London
By Burma Campaign UK   

British Citizen Niranjan Rasalingham in Burma Jail for 2 Years Without Conviction

By Burma Campaign UK

Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis Requires Action Now – Lives Are Being Lost
By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Burma: CSW Calls for Independent Inquiry into Crimes Against Humanity
By Christian Solidarity Worldwide

KWO Message International Day to Stop Violence against Women
By Karen Women’s Organization

Press Release on Fighting in Northern Shan State and Request for Local People
By Northern Alliance, Arakan Army, Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Ta’ang National Liberation Army

Situation in the Northern Rakhine State
By Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Malaysia

“Announcement on Situation of Armed Conflicts in the Northeast Shan State”

By National Reconciliation and Peace Center

Aung San Suu Kyi is legitimising genocide in Myanmar and has entrenched the persecution of Rohingya Muslims  warn state crime academics
By Researchers from the International State Crime Initiative

Press Release on New Briefing Paper Calls for an End to Institutionalized Impunity for state-sponsored Sexual Violence in Burma

By Women’s League of Burma




Access to Justice for Women Survivors of Gender-based Violence Committed by State Actors in Burma

By Asia Justice and Rights and Women’s League of Burma

A Briefing by Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK: 2016 Crackdown on the Rohingya
By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Salween Peace Park – A Vision for an Indigenous Karen Landscape of Human-Nature Harmony in Southeast Myanmar

By Karen National Union and Karen Environmental and Social Action Network


Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”