Since Oct. 27, the "Three Brotherhood Alliance" of minority military groups in Myanmar, comprising the Arakan Army, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, has launched the "1027 Operation" in northern Shan State. This ongoing conflict with the national defense forces has led to the occupation of several towns and military outposts.
On Nov. 17, the national defense forces initiated an aerial and naval offensive to reclaim the port town of Pauktaw in the Bay of Bengal, which had been captured by the Arakan Army on Nov. 15. The offensive resulted in civilian casualties. Due to the escalation of the conflict, major transport and water routes between towns in northern Myanmar have been restricted, affecting the movement of people and the delivery of humanitarian aid.
This presents the most severe challenge to the Myanmar government since the 2021 coup, when the military overthrew the elected government and suppressed anti-government forces. The military government's control is now widely questioned, with even the possibility of internal divisions.
Recently, the "Three Brotherhood Alliance" has been gradually pushing back the national defense forces in Kayah State, bordering Thailand. The Arakan Army has also opened a front against the national defense forces in western Rakhine State. They are combating the national defense forces with homemade firearms and bombing government military bases using drones.
A spokesperson for the national defense forces admitted earlier this week that they are facing fierce attacks on multiple fronts and labeled the "Three Brotherhood Alliance" as terrorists. The national defense forces are mobilizing civil servants and recruiting citizens with combat experience. According to incomplete statistics, the military government's forces now number over 500,000, mostly comprising militias and police, while the "Three Brotherhood Alliance" has about 15,000 troops.
Since the British colonial period, Myanmar's minority armed groups have frequently clashed with the government. Since independence in 1948, the newly established central government of Myanmar has struggled to control various civilian organizations, leading to ongoing factional conflicts.
The 2021 military coup exacerbated internal strife. Accompanied by the governance vacuum created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the maturity of mobile internet technology, Myanmar's borders have become a notorious hub for telecommunications fraud in Southeast Asia over the past few years.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, since the February 2021 coup, over 1.67 million people in Myanmar have been forced to flee. Since the outbreak of conflict on Oct. 27, there have been 75 civilian deaths and 94 injuries in conflict areas such as northern Shan State, southern Shan State, and Kayah State. Additionally, over 200,000 people have been displaced.
Myanmar's northern border intersects with the eastern Indian states of Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur. Reports indicate that recently over 5,000 refugees and dozens of defeated national defense forces soldiers have crossed the border seeking asylum in India. Indian authorities have circumvented the conflict areas and handed these soldiers over to Myanmar authorities at a transit point hundreds of kilometers away.
India's Ministry of External Affairs has called for constructive dialogue among all parties involved in the Myanmar conflict. For refugees wishing to return to Myanmar, India has promised to facilitate their return.
Artillery fire from the conflict has even landed in Ruili, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China, temporarily disrupting local logistics and leading to school closures. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning recently stated at a regular press conference that China insists on resolving differences through dialogue and consultation, avoiding escalation, and has requested Myanmar to take effective measures to ensure the security and stability of the China-Myanmar border.
Billy Ford of the U.S. Institute of Peace's Labor Group stated that although Myanmar's internal issues are complex and challenging, they are not beyond negotiation, and all parties involved should be allowed to choose their own future in their own way.
The international community continues to monitor the humanitarian situation in the region. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has urged all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and make every effort to protect civilians. He has also called for humanitarian aid and services to be provided to Myanmar through all channels.
As of Nov. 14, the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund has distributed $1 million in relief funds since the escalation of the conflict. The European Union's total aid to the people of Myanmar and Rohingya refugees outside the country this year will also exceed 68 million euros (approximately $73.92 million).