The last four days of October 2023 will be remembered as one of the most significant turning points of the people’s struggle in building a genuine federal democracy in Myanmar. The pro-democracy forces entered into a more structured and advanced phase characterized by the 3Cs: Collaboration, Coordination, and Collective Action. While the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada simultaneously imposed additional targeted sanctions against the Myanmar military junta, a series of multi-front revolutionary offensives, inflamed by the now-famous Operation 1027, were launched across the country. Following the fast-growing momentum gained by the people’s movement, the international community must respond quickly, timely and effectively in support of the people of Myanmar by stepping up targeted and coordinated sanctions on the junta’s revenue flows and arms, and deliver much-needed cross-border humanitarian aid.
Two days before Thadingyut Festival, Myanmar’s Buddhist Festival of Lights, the Three Brotherhood Alliance, one of the most powerful armed alliances among the Ethnic Resistance Organizations (EROs), launched Operation 1027, a series of coordinated and well-planned attacks targeting the junta’s military bases and outposts across northern Shan State. The Kachin Independence Army, the Bamar People’s Liberation Army, and multiple People’s Defense Forces, among others, have also joined the ongoing military offensive of the EROs’ alliance. Over one hundred junta positions have fallen around the Myanmar-China border, together with strategic gates, bridges and hills, that were previously under the junta’s control.
Operation 1027 represents only one of the offensives launched by resistance forces over the last weeks. In southeastern Myanmar, the Karen National Union, in coordination with its allied forces, intensified military operations in its 6th Brigade area, targeting multiple junta outposts and columns. Simultaneously, new coordinated attacks were carried out in Sagaing Region where a coalition of resistance forces successfully captured the first-ever district-level city since the junta’s attempted coup. Revolutionary flags have been flying over multiple cities’ sites, from the Chin Shwe Haw’s entrance gate on the China border to the Kawlin Township Administration Office in Sagaing Region, showing the historical achievements of the people’s revolutionary forces’ ongoing offensives and advancement of territorial control. While recent coordinated operations across the country have revealed the tangible results of the 3Cs approach, it is still crucial to remember that the Revolution got to where it is today thanks to the unwavering commitment of the people of Myanmar to dismantle the blood-soaked military institution once and for all.
While the 3Cs approach has already achieved remarkable success on the ground, the same cannot be said at the international level. Although numerous measures have been implemented to increase the pressure on the junta, those ostensibly pro-democracy actors abroad are still lagging. On 31 October 2023, the US Government imposed its first-ever targeted but limited sanctions on Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), the junta’s largest single source of revenue. The recent sanction prohibits only specific financial services, such as loans, insurance and investments, by US persons to MOGE. This measure fell short of entirely blocking junta-controlled enterprises, meaning US companies like Chevron can continue to do business with MOGE and line the pockets of the junta.
Furthermore, in a coordinated announcement with the US, the UK and Canada imposed additional sanctions on the junta’s arms dealers and financiers. In the recent measures, Canada has been the first country worldwide to target Shwe Byain Phyu Group and its chairperson and founder Thein Win Zaw. Last year, the infamous junta-linked conglomerate, primarily involved in the oil and gas industry, bought out Telenor’s operations in Myanmar, exposing sensitive data of more than 18 million subscribers across the country.
While the latest sanctions by the US, UK and Canada are welcomed, there is a growing frustration regarding the slow and limited responses of the international community. World’s leading democracies could do so much more to support the Myanmar people’s democratic resistance movement on the ground to defeat and dismantle the illegal and murderous junta.
In its latest act of pure brutality, the military junta responded to the offensives launched by resistance forces with the single strategy it has left: aerial attacks against unarmed civilians. The junta’s multi-day airstrike operation targeted both northern Shan State, on the China border, and Sagaing Region. The junta’s atrocity crimes will not change the irreversible trajectory on the ground. The Myanmar military’s decades-long corrupt, violent, and oppressive system is set to collapse, and the people’s resistance movement will soon triumph.
Over the last years, the people of Myanmar have constantly disproved all of the pro-junta theories, analyses, unrealistic future scenarios, and false myths, such as that the military represents the only institution that can hold the country together. More than 1000 days of the people’s resistance has shown that remarkable accomplishments can only be achieved by forming a united front, rather than acting individually.
Now, in order to save as many lives as possible and help Myanmar people achieve their aspirations for a federal democracy, the international community must follow the Myanmar people’s example and coordinate its actions to implement the “Four Cuts Plus One Increase” strategy as described by the PV’s chairperson: Cut the legitimacy, cut the weapons, cut the cash, and cut the impunity to the junta while increasing direct support to the locally-led humanitarian efforts.
In this regard, the international community must ensure no legitimacy to the junta by stopping the signing of MoUs with the junta or inviting them to regional and international forums. The international community must ramp up its efforts to halt flows of weapons, ammunition, technology, and dual–use goods, including aviation fuel, to the junta, and impose and enforce targeted sanctions rigorously and effectively. They must also pursue all available mechanisms and avenues to actualize justice and accountability, including a referral of Myanmar crisis to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal and exercising universal jurisdiction. Lastly, the international donors must ensure cross-border humanitarian assistance. Going forward, the US Government in particular must step up to fully sanction MOGE and the entire network of junta-linked companies, cronies, shell companies, and arms traders.
As stated by Khun Bedu, Chairman of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force: “According to international analysts, it could take at least ten years to bring down the dictatorship. The people will change that.”
 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.
By 20 Rohingya Organizations
By 414 Organization Worldwide
By Canada (Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs)
By EarthRights International
By Justice For Myanmar
By Myanmar Campaign Network
By U.S. Department of State
By U.S. Department of the Treasury
By Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
By Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
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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.”