Myanmar’s ruling military faces attacks on multiple fronts in its borderlands as an alliance of ethnic minority insurgent groups joins with pro-democracy militants in an attempt to seize territory and challenge the junta’s rule.
Why did fighting break out?
On October 27, the ethnic minority alliance launched coordinated attacks on military posts in northern Shan State bordering China and captured several towns in an operation they called 1027, citing the date the attack began.
The “Three Brothers Alliance,” as the group is called, said its goal was to “protect civilian lives, consolidate our right to self-defense, maintain control of our territory and respond decisively to the junta’s ongoing artillery attacks and airstrikes.”
It said it was also “committed to rooting out an oppressive military dictatorship” and committed to tackling online gambling fraud centers on the Myanmar-China border that implicated thousands of foreign workers, many against their will.
China, which wields significant influence in the region, has called for an end to the fighting and pressured the junta to crack down on illegal businesses that have left many Chinese victims of fraud and some even of slavery. Some analysts and diplomats say it is unlikely that the 1027 offensive could be carried out without China’s blessing.
Why was Operation 1027 significant?
Although fighting has continued in many regions of Myanmar since the generals seized power in a coup in 2021, the scale of the new offensive poses the biggest military challenge to the junta’s rule, which is spreading its forces on several fronts.
The alliance consists of three groups with extensive combat experience – the Burma National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA).
Importantly, they were also joined by members of the so-called People’s Defense Forces, a loosely organized movement backed by Burma’s counterpart, the National Unity Government (NUG). It shows a level of planning and coordination not seen since the coup, with militias also helping by thwarting the military’s resupply efforts.
After the attacks in Shan State, anti-aircraft forces opened a front against the military at their base in Rakhine State, despite a ceasefire agreed a year ago, along with rebel attacks in Kayah State bordering Thailand and in the Sagaing region and Chin State bordering Thailand. India.
How serious is the threat facing the junta?
Analysts say it is too early to predict the extent to which the military’s rule in the rest of the country may be at risk.
The generals have led Myanmar for five of the last six decades and have a track record of combining battlefield power with divide-and-rule strategies to control from the center and keep powerful border rebellions in check.
However, the 1027 offensive won the eye of a well-equipped army with decades of counter-insurgency experience.
There are signs it is emboldening the armed opposition as rebels test security forces for vulnerabilities in several regions, taking advantage of the junta’s slow response and the ease with which its soldiers have given up dozens of positions and authorized small arms, ammunition, machine guns and even vehicles armored to be occupied.
The operation was met with enthusiasm across Myanmar and closely watched on social media, challenging military narratives of its invincibility. The reclusive junta had no choice but to admit that it was being tested, after which the appointed president admitted that the country was at risk of falling apart.
What is likely to happen?
Given its reputation, the junta is unlikely to back down easily and risk a domino effect of undermining its power in more regions of a country where its rule is deeply unpopular.
The military has greater firepower and resources, including air and artillery, and can mount a decisive response to put down an insurgency.
An important decision for the military will be where to deploy its resources and conduct air strikes. The security forces are already strained by a vast armed opposition, and a decisive response on one front could expose the military on another front.
The prolonged fight will test the endurance and arsenals of both sides. A likely scenario would be for the junta to lose control over some border regions, although retaining power at the central level, which would benefit neighboring India, Thailand and China, which are concerned about instability and the prospect of a refugee crisis.