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Myanmar’s military completes one year in power

01 February 2022 Deepa Kumar

1 February 2022 marks one year since Myanmar's military staged the coup. Since staging the coup Myanmar's military has consistently attempted to consolidate its authority across state operations and business functioning. The anti-coup sentiment of thousands of protesters in the immediate aftermath of the coup translated into the formation of new civilian militias called the People's Defense Forces (PDF). Most PDFs fight with allegiance to the shadow government of ousted civilian leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), called the National Unity Government (NUG) (formed in April 2021). The NUG sees itself as the de jure and de facto government of Myanmar. Fighting between PDFs and the military has significantly increased since September 2021, when the NUG declared a 'defensive war' and urged PDFs to increase their attacks.

Heavy fighting between Myanmar's military and civilian militias known as PDFs is very likely through 2022, with a political resolution improbable and the military's operational depth and monopoly of air attacks acting as an advantage. Coordination at a regional level, or a federal PDF-front, remains unlikely due to longstanding distrust along ethnic lines. Even with Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAO), coordination has been intermittent, though PDFs will likely seek to formalize the partnerships, mostly within their region. Decentralized fighting will probably be severe through 2022, but domestic and foreign investment projects not linked to the military are unlikely to be directly targeted.

The Rakhine ceasefire is crucial to the military's ability to respond effectively and simultaneously across other parts of the country. If fighting resumes, the military would be required to divert significant resources to Rakhine, likely also strengthening the position of the PDFs and the NUG in negotiations. In that scenario, the military would be likely to accept some NUG demands such as the release of political prisoners, limiting its use of force against civilians, and formalizing a timeline for elections. Compounding factors would increase this risk, including increasing fatalities and/or defections among military ranks, and strains on morale caused by protracted domestic conflict.

Posted 01 February 2022 by Deepa Kumar, Deputy Head of Asia-Pacific Country Risk Team – Asia-Pacific Country Risk, IHS Markit

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