Myanmar Army Reshuffle What Does it Signify?
The Irrawaddy on August 22 reported a major reshuffle of in the Myanmar Army. This comes amidst continuous fighting that has erupted in April last year after the military coup in February that displaced the popularly elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government.
The Northern Command chief Major General Myat Thet Oo and the Southeastern Command head Maj-Gen Ko KoMaung switched positions as per the Irrawaddy.
Eastern Central Command chief Maj-Gen Hla Moe was transferred to the Triangle Region Command
Maj-Gen Myo Min Tun of Triangle Region Command was transferred to the Eastern Command and the Eastern commander Maj-Gen Lin Ni Aung was transferred to the Eastern Central Command.
13th Military Operations Commander, Brigadier General Myint Tun Naing has been replaced with commander of Division 66 based in Bago after the command has suffered heavy casualties.
Of the five commands, there are no ongoing clashes for the Triangle Region and Eastern Central commands as per the Irrawaddy. There have also been many defections from this force.
The Northern Command is seeing some heavy fighting details of which are covered in the subsequent section.
Intensity of fighting is also high in the South Eastern Command and is expected to increase as the Army has been on the defensive in this sector so far and is concerned over rising casualties.
Why Northern Myanmar is the Army's Focus?
Northern Myanmar has seen maximum resistance to the military coup so far. The Sagaing Region and the Chin State both bordering India are seen to be the strongholds of the National League for Democracy and the Chin community respectively. Chin State has an ongoing militancy led by the Chinland Defence Force. Sagaing has been relativey quiet so far but is the axis to the Kachin State on the India, Myanmar, China triangle. There are large quantity of jade and minerals in Kachin harvested by the military junta. Thus stability in Sagaing assumes importance.
How is the Military Offensive Going?
The brutal and harsh campaign launched by the Myanmar Military in the country is led by the "special command" which has been created in the capital Naypyitaw where it is believed that four top generals close to the head of the armed forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing have been placed and are taking all the decisions.
Though there has been resentment in the military as well over the harsh campaign launched the special command has been unrelented and takes decisions on operations by troops deployed in towns and cities.
In the North the offensive was launched in February this year and is continuing. A large military convoy is now headed to the Chin state which has seen major resistance to the military regime take over of the country in a coup last year on February 01.
Chinland Defense Force (CDF), a local resistance group fighting the regime stated that the convoy is headed into the Chin Hills along the Monywa-Pakokku Road.
Some vehicles are transporting artillery, and most of the other vehicles are entirely covered and believed to be loaded with ammunition, said a leader of the Mindat CDF.
“They are currently in Mindat. We still don’t know if they are going to attack us or if they are transporting food supplies to Matupi. There is still no clash,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Apart from using air, artillery and attack helicopter strikes on the PDF, the military is targeting villages which it believes are providing support to the armed rebels.
The firing is frequently followed by the kidnapping of villagers and burning their homes.
For instance, Myanmar Now reports that a column of 100 junta soldiers kidnapped 30 men from a village in Sagaing Region’s Yinmabin Township moved on to a second village and burnt homes there.
This month, the Junta soldiers burned hundreds of homes in villages in Sagaing Region’s Khin-U Township. The troops set fires in seven different villages between March 5 and March 16, destroying at least 337 houses, according to records compiled by the Khin-U People’s Defence Force (PDF).
A unit of almost 300 junta soldiers has burned down houses in three villages near Sagaing Region’s border with Chin State.
In the Chin State, 200 troops from the junta’s Light Infantry Division (LID) 55 attacked the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) based in San Ma Thar, a village in the northern part of Kanpetlet Township, on March 15.
In the central Kayah state that is critical as it is next to the capital and stronghold of the military Naypyidaw from March 9 to 16, the military clashed with the Karenni Army, KNDF and People’s Defense Forces and has undertaken numerous air and helicopter attacks on villages rendering large numbers homeless.
Resistance and counter response by Anti Military Forces
The anti-military forces in Myanmar include the PDF and ethnic armed organisations (EAO) who have decades of experience fighting the Myanmar Army. For instance, troops from the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU) overran a Myanmar military base in southeastern Myanmar, killing one junta soldier, capturing another, and seizing weapons and explosives, the rebel group has said. The military is reported to have retreated and belonged to Infantry Battalion 21 and Light Infantry Battalion 555.
Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA) Battalion 201 is conducted operations in this area and has claimed that on March 13, KNLA troops captured four soldiers, including a battalion commander and deputy commander, from outside the base of Infantry Battalion 32 in Waw Lay Township, Dooplaya District.
Who is supporting the Military Internally?
The military regime has garnered support from political parties which have been formed of military veterans, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (UPDS), the influential body of veteran generals led by Senior General Than Shwe and also include former President U Thein Sein had run Myanmar for decades prior to 2008 and the Buddhist clergy.
To win over the Buddhist clergy this month the regime conferred the Abhidhajamahāraṭṭhaguru title on U Tilawka Bhivamsa. He is the former chairman of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha.
The Irrawaddy reports that the monk known as Insein Ywama Sayadaw he had been imprisoned under the previous military regime – the State Law and Order Restoration Council. He has assumed importance as the support of the extremist clergy is important for the military given that majority of the soldiers are Bumar Buddhist.
The military has also mobilized militias against resistance groups in Kayah State to include the Kayan National Guard (KNG), Mawchi militia, KNG, Karenni National Peace and Development Party militia, Loilem Lay militia, Karenni National Solidarity Organization militia, Kayan New Land Party militia.