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Review of Myanmar Army’s Five Cut Strategy

Myanmar Army has traditionally fallen on the four cuts strategy – depriving resistance food, finances, intelligence and recruits to brutally suppress the armed resistance. The Army’s main antagonist in the past were the Ethnic Armed Organisations [EAO] – organized to seek a federal state structure. To this panoply of adversaries are added the People’s Defence Force [PDF] from the majority Bamar community which operates under the National Unity Government.  To neutralize the new wave of resistance the Tatmadaw [Myanmar Armed Forces] have added a fifth cut – denial of mobile and internet communications.

The state of the post coup resistance in Myanmar denotes that despite the loose coordination in many areas between the EAOs and the PDF, substantial gains have been made particularly on the peripheral states and regions of the Irrawaddy Valley as shown by the U on the Map above. Here is a review of state of fighting from the Rakhine State in the West in a northerly arc to the Karen [Kayah] state on the Thai Myanmar border.

Arakan  State

The Arakan Army (AA) has gained control of substantial territory and townships in the Rakhine State with the latest advance being to Ramree near the Kyaukphyu port with the SEZ Deep Seaport Co Ltd, a joint venture between the China International Trust and Investment Corporation Group’s Myanmar Port Investment Co and the junta-backed Kyaukphyu SEZ Management Committee coming under a threat.

The capital of Rakhine, Sittwe is also under threat. Ponnagyun 33 km northeast of the state capital Sittwe is now in the hands of the AA.

AA already controls Paletwa in Chin State through which the link to Indian State of Mizoram passes and which is crucial for the Kaladan Multi Modal Transport project to India.

AA appears to have the control of routes being developed to India as well as China and is just 45 minutes’ drive from Sittwe, the State capital.

Sagaing Region

In the Sagaing region, resistance forces  suffered a set back as they had to abandon an attempt to seize control of Kani, 40 miles north of Sagaing Region’s capital Monywa, after 10 days of fighting. The military also regained Kawlin a key town in this region.

Kachin State

On 7 March, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) which had undertaken limited operations so far, launched captured three military junta bases and 11 small outposts along the 120 km-long (72-mile) Myitkyina-Bhampo highway in a swift offensive.

KIA is now on the outskirts of Myitkyina, the capital and economic hub of Kachin State. These forces have also been able to attack the runway of the airport in Bhamo and the military airbase in Myitkyina. KIA has reportedly damaged at least one Mi-17 helicopter at Myitkyina airport. In sum, six aircraft have been destroyed, including a MiG-29 that crashed on 1 March, apparently due to technical malfunctions.

Shan State

The Brotherhood Alliance—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Arakan Army (AA) the last named operating in Rakhine gained control over crossings to China under the Haigen Ceasefire Agreement.

The agreement specifies that the military and Three Brotherhood Alliance will run customs jointly at Chin Shwe Haw border trade post in north Shan State, 70 per cent of the duties going to the military and 30 percent to the MNDAA.  The military has characteristically failed to adhere to the agreement, thus traders are now using Taunggyi-Kengtung-Mongla route and the border trade gate in Kachin State’s Kanpiketi to trade with China. Both China and the military have not commented on re-opening of Chin Shwe Haw. The Taunggyi-Kengtung-Mongla route is controlled by the military and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), also known as the Mongla Group.

Myanmar air force is alleged to have dropped chemical bombs on the Pa-O town of Hsi Hseng in northern Shan State, according to the Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLA) which has not been independently verified.

In the Karen state Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and resistance allies seized Infantry Battalion 355 headquarters and a police station in Myawaddy Township on the Thai border KNLA now controls Thingannyinaung village between the border town of Myawaddy and Kawkareik on the Asian Highway to Thailand.

Lack of Coordination of Resistance forces

K3C—the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Karen National Union (KNU) operates in Kayin State, Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and Chin National Front (CNF). However, coordination with these EAOs and the PDFs is loose.

The Brotherhood Alliance members are operating on their own, while many local resistance groups remain unaligned with the NUG. Lack of coordination has raised serious concerns over potential territorial fragmentation working to the benefit of the Tatmadaw.

Military Fights Back

To meet the multi-pronged challenge the military is undertaking several measures. First is the conscription law summoning all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve for at least two years. Declaration of the People’s Military Service Law regime met with a public outcry as military officials announced thousands of young people are eligible for conscription. The requirement for conscription is underlined by the fact that many of the light infantry battalions of the Amy which have surrendered are undermanned. The aim is also to deny the PDFs and EAOs ready recruits of youth.

The State Administrative Council [SAC] has also activated the Reserve Forces Law, allowing it to send veterans back to the front line.  Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Prime Minister and armed forces chief claimed that the move was in line with the demand by veterans to return to duty for the sake of national defense. The organization had 91,677 members and 161,372 auxiliary members nationwide as of September 2021 and 308 of 330 townships nationwide had veteran organizations, according to its website.

The military is also forming “people’s militias” in Yangon, Bago and Tanintharyi regions and Mon State allocating weapons, cash and food.

The Military has also declared martial law in areas which are under the control of the EAOs.

Three Brotherhood Alliance said that the junta’s declaration of martial law in three northern Shan State towns under the control of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has endangered the Haigen Ceasefire Agreement. The military has also cut off internet and phone lines in around 80 townships across the country in the new five cuts strategy.

Meanwhile the National Unity Government’s Central Committee for Counterterrorism is warning that it will take legal action against anyone who cooperates with the regime’s effort to impose mandatory military service.


Given the span of fighting and regrouping of forces by the military, the prevailing stalemate is expected to continue with neither side -the NUG/EAO resistance and the Tatmadaw able to make a breakthrough. Coordination by the NUG/EAO combine will be essential. How effective the conscription and call up of reservists will work for the highly unpopular Tatmadaw remains to be seen?


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