Operation 1027: Setback for Myanmar Junta-China alliance

Dubbed as “Operation 1027,” and undertaken by the three rebellion groups of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army has shaken the current military regime in Myanmar.

In an unexpected and most coordinated offensive by ‘The Three brotherhood Alliance’ have captured key roads and military posts, impacting the cash-strapped junta’s revenue and encumbering troop movement.

The reports from conflict zone suggest that the surprise attacks on Shan State were followed by the Arakan Army opening a front against the army in its base of Rakhine State on the west coast, an offensive by insurgents in Kayah state bordering Thailand to the east and the Sagaing region and Chin State, bordering India. It was in violation of a ceasefire which was in force between the armed groups and Junta for the past one year.

A challenge for Myanmar Junta 

The Brotherhood Alliance has been successful in cutting off the junta regime from a stretch of land which handles about 40% of bilateral border trade with China and around one billion dollars of the trade comes from natural gas piped into China.

As per information, the fighting erupted recently in Shan, Kachin and Chin states which are situated in the country’s north as well as in Rakhine State in the west. 

Three Brotherhood fighters have claimed that they have overrun dozens of military posts across the region and seized major roads leading in and out besides forcing the surrender of over 100 soldiers of the Myanmar army which had a demoralizing effect on Junta. While continuing their fight, the armed groups have taken the fight to the Tatmadaw in Kayah State in the country’s east, which has a lot of importance and relevance to the Myanmar army.

India must watch closely 

India will need to rethink its old-fashioned stated position towards Myanmar before the fallout seriously threatens its interests. India feels that the United States should seize the moment to enhance engagement with India on Myanmar and work to alleviate the humanitarian situation thereby supporting the anti-Junta forces in Myanmar to establish a federal democracy. India has also tried to maintain equal distance from Military generals and pro-democracy political parties to ensure that Junta does not fall in the lap of China.

Chinese reaction 

Experts say that the army generals were not ready for such a huge offensive of the Three Brotherhood Alliance, which has now started a chain reaction in the entire country, pushing the Junta on the receiving end.

Armed groups are advancing in a coordinated manner and reported to have taken control of fifty towns and villages besides the army losing 100 posts which has galvanized them. Army chief Hlaing has promised to undertake a counter attack on terrorists in the north of the country which might expose weakness of the Junta regime.

Defense experts say that armed rebellion by ethnic armed organizations is a diplomatic blow to army generals in Myanmar, who were basking under power camouflage and smokescreen. Moreover, the National Unity Government (NUG) formed by the opposition lawmakers in Burma is considered close to the West which is feeling encouraged after the successful offensive by the armed groups.

China’s peace initiative or ‘double speak’

China has urged Myanmar to restore border stability even as the junta’s conflict with armed groups intensifies. The Chinese official stand is ‘intriguing’ and runs like this “as a friendly neighbor, China sincerely hopes that Myanmar will restore stability and development as soon as possible, and supports all parties in Myanmar to properly resolve differences within the constitutional and legal framework and achieve reconciliation through dialogue.”

A recent visit by assistant foreign minister Nong Rong holds significance after armed groups stepped up an offensive against Junta which has put Chinese residents and infrastructure at risk. Some of the Ex-diplomats are surprised over the ‘Dual Policy’ adopted by China which has been actively supporting the militant groups. Experts suggest that China has been patronizing the military Junta from day one and the ongoing ethnic offensives wouldn’t have been possible without the blessings of Beijing. 

The United Wa State Army (UWSA), a powerful ethnic armed organization controlling an autonomous region in Myanmar’s northeastern Shan State, receives substantial weapons and political sustenance from China.

Notwithstanding the claims of ‘neutrality’ in the conflict between Myanmar and ethnic groups by UWSA, China remains a major arms supplier to the insurgent forces. As per long term strategic goals, China’s interests in Myanmar relating to ethnic conflicts in the border regions are in consonance with a well-thought game plan.

China’s key element of Geo Political objective vis-à-vis Myanmar pertains to “border stability,” which is of paramount importance and relevant owing to its strategic, security and economic reasons along the common border. Experts feel that another strategic interest is related to the pursuit and preservation of access to the Indian Ocean with Myanmar which serves as a ‘land bridge.’

China’s extensive infrastructure projects including roads, railways, and energy pipelines under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are endangered due to Instability along the borders hence it needs to keep military generals and friendly armed groups under its influence and control. Second, the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipelines, linking Myanmar’s Rakhine state to the Bay of Bengal and the Chinese Yunnan provincial capital Kunming  plays a vital role in transporting imported energy from the Bay of Bengal, Africa West Asia etc. to Chinese hinterlands.

The UWSA has become a primary source of small arms and light weapons for its allied ethnic groups although China has historically restricted the transfer of advanced weaponry to other nations like Myanmar. 

Limited role of ASEAN

The Myanmar regime has rejected a five-point consensus (5PC) agreement which was adopted on April 24, 2021 in Jakarta. The 5PC included an immediate halting of the violence in Myanmar, a visit by the special envoy, meaningful dialogue among all stakeholders to arrive at some peaceful solution in the interests of the people and facilitating a delegation to Myanmar to meet all parties concerned.

ASEAN efforts have made little progress towards a resolution of the crisis which is evident from the intensification of fighting in the country.

Analysts opine that Ukraine and Israel-Hamas wars have pushed the Myanmar crisis to the background which have diminished the chances of resolving the woes of people of Myanmar and democratic forces. China is actively monitoring the situation on Myanmar borders as conflict has already hit its economic and strategic interests.

 

KS Tomar is political analyst based in Shimla, India and has experience of foreign posting in a neighboring country.

The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times 

Images courtesy of (VOI) and provided

Share this post