Beyond the Mekong

Taking Down the Tatmadaw

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Beyond the Mekong | Politics | Southeast Asia

Taking Down the Tatmadaw

A conversation with journalist and Myanmar activist Scott Johnson.

Taking Down the Tatmadaw
Credit: Photo Supplied

Scott Johnson is an Australia-based lawyer, journalist, and human rights advocate with more than 20 years of experience focusing on indigenous groups and geopolitical issues in Southeast Asia, in particular Myanmar, which he still calls Burma.

His work began in the 1990s with human rights campaigns for The Montagnard Foundation, which included lobbying in the United Nations, Geneva, Washington, D.C. and Brussels. He also established the Tribal Action Group, which advocates on behalf of indigenous groups in Southeast Asia.

Over the last decade, Johnson has been involved with Burma and its many ethnic groups, who have vowed to fight the military junta that seized power from an elected government early last year.

This has involved some 30 excursions into Myanmar, which included more than 70 jungle border crossings.

He has written for The Washington Times, The Epoch Times, Soldier of Fortune Magazine, Asia Times Online and the West Australian, while producing documentaries for television.

Johnson spoke with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt about his experiences in Myanmar and the problems with its foreign relations, dating back to Barack Obama’s time in office as United States president, that made last year’s coup d’état all too predictable.

Given the spate of recent counterattacks by ethnic groups, which has pushed the fighting from the jungles to the edges of provincial cities, he says a military victory over the Tatmadaw is possible if the many ethnic groups can unite and fight as a cohesive unit.