A surge in operations by the Myanmar military is evident in March even as the resistance forces had established a degree of parity with superiority over select pockets in the first two years of hard fighting.
However March saw the Tatmadaw launching operations in Kayah State, including Pekon and Pinlaung townships in neighboring southern Shan State, Tanintharyi Region and areas of Magwe Region and Chin State.
The Irrawaddy reported that the new offensives were possible because the regime has moved 3,000 troops formerly stationed near the Myanmar-China border in Shan State inland to the conflict areas.
The pattern of fighting and heavy losses suffered by the military confirms reports by Irrawaddy.
Despite the reinforcements operations launched continued to be brutal. Thus 20 civilians including Buddhist monks were killed in a massacre in Pinlaung Township, Shan State.
Earlier Eastern Command and Loikaw Regional Operations Command with 66th Light Infantry Division could not achieve a breakthrough with strong resistance from — the Karenni Army and the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force — and People’s Defense Forces (PDF) in this area.
Reinforcements were also despatched to Magwe’s Gangaw District and neighboring Chin State, where PDF’s fighting alongside the Chinland Defense Force.
Reinforcements included 12th Military Operations Command (MOC) based in northern Shan State to Karen State, while troops from the 20th MOC fighting in Karen State were moved to Tanintharyi Region.
Reinforcements were also despatched to 2nd MOC and 17th MOC, who have launched assaults in Yaw Region, an area made up of Gangaw, Htilin, and Saw in Magwe Region’s Gangaw District, and Kyaukhtu on the border of Magwe and Chin State.
How China Intervened?
Concerned over spill over of violence from the Northern Shan state across the Myanmar China border, China’s special envoy Deng Xijun met — the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). These were supporting the pro-democracy revolutionary forces training the fighters and armed by the KIA, TNLA and MNDAA.
It appears that the KIA, TNLA and MNDAA have agreed to keep peace in the Northern Shan State though whether they also accepted to stop training and arming the PDF is not clear.
This comes even as two Myanmar army columns raided a base of the anti-junta People’s Defence Force (PDF) in Sagaing Region’s Myaung Township last week, seizing 100m kyat (US$47,800) worth of weapons and ammunition, according to a statement by the resistance group reports the Irrawaddy.
The camp in question—located near Meimathaw village and situated on the Ayeyarwady River—was held by Battalion 5 of a PDF chapter from Myitnge in neighbouring Mandalay Region.
Ko Ye, an officer in the Myitnge PDF, told Myanmar Now that each of the attacking junta columns had more than 100 troops.
They reportedly converged on the base from opposite directions along the river on March 15. One of the columns was from Light Infantry Division 99, and responsible for recent brutal massacres including one involving 17 victims in Tar Taing, Sagaing Township some 30 miles away, the officer said.
The other was a unit that had been occupying the village of KyaukYit in southern Myaung.
High Command Activates
Simultaneously in Sagaing Region, the epicentre of opposition to the military government in central Burma, Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the Burmese junta, met with junta members who work for the Northwestern Command of the Myanmar military on March 20.
He met junta personnel in Monywa his first since the imposition of martial law in Sagaing Region.
The regime's leader urged military unity and delivered protracted speeches on how soldiers should make the most of their specialised training.
The regime chief called for unity within the military, and gave long lectures about how soldiers should fully utilize the military training they have been given as per the Irrawaddy.
In February, the military regime declared martial law in 14 townships in Sagaing, placing them under the direct control of Northwestern Command. Since the imposition of martial law, the junta has stepped up its terror campaign in Sagaing, perpetrating more massacres and arson attacks targeting both resistance fighters and civilians. Observers say Min Aung Hlaing went to Sagaing to give detailed guidance about the ongoing military operation as per the Irrawaddy.
In 14 townships in Sagaing, the military government imposed martial law in February, putting them under the direct authority of Northwestern Command.
As martial law was imposed, the junta has intensified its terror campaign in Sagaing, carrying out more massacres and arson attacks against both civilians and resistance members.
Observers claim that Min Aung Hlaing travelled to Sagaing to provide specific advice about
Deputy junta chief Soe Win visited another anti-regime hotbed, Kayah State, and instructed junta troops based there to fully utilize their weapons.
The regime has sent around 2,000 reinforcements into Kayah, according to local resistance forces. Yet over two years after the coup, the regime is still far from controlling Myanmar as per the Irrawaddy.
Limited Control by Military
At a meeting of the National Defense and Security Council last month, Min Aung Hlaing admitted that half of the country is unstable.
Only 198 of Myanmar’s 330 townships have 100 per cent stability, and security needs to be beefed up in the rest, said the junta boss.
A March 4 statement from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that around 750,000 civilians have been displaced by armed conflict in Sagaing Region since the 2021 military takeover.