NAYPYIDAW-The military-installed president of Myanmar has warned that the country is in danger of breaking apart if the government cannot control fighting which has broken out in Shan State.
Former General Myint Swe, who was appointed after a coup in 2021, was speaking at an emergency meeting held by the ruling military council to address a series of co-ordinated attacks by anti-military insurgents which have inflicted serious losses on the armed forces.
Three ethnic insurgent armies in Shan State, supported by other armed groups opposing the government, have overrun dozens of military posts, and captured border crossings and the roads carrying most of the overland trade with China.
It is the most serious setback suffered by the junta since it seized power in February 2021. After two-and-half years of battling the armed uprising it provoked with its disastrous coup, the military is looking weak, and possibly beatable.
The government has responded with airstrikes and artillery bombardments, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. But it has been unable to bring in reinforcements or recover the ground it has lost. Among hundreds of troops killed is believed to be the commander of government forces in northern Shan State, Brigadier General Aung Kyaw Lwin, the most senior officer killed in combat since the coup.
What makes this attack even more significant is that it marks the first time that the well-armed insurgents operating in Shan State have explicitly aligned themselves and their military operations with the wider campaign to overthrow the junta and restore democratic rule.
However, there are other factors at play. These three insurgent groups have long-held ambitions to expand the territory they hold. And crucially China, which normally acts as a restraining influence on all the groups along its border with Myanmar, has not prevented this operation from going ahead. __The Nation