Myanmar Ethnic Alliance ‘Reaffirms’ Goal of Overthrowing Military Junta

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Myanmar Ethnic Alliance ‘Reaffirms’ Goal of Overthrowing Military Junta

The Three Brotherhood Alliance made the announcement two days after reports that it took part in peace talks with the military administration.

Myanmar Ethnic Alliance ‘Reaffirms’ Goal of Overthrowing Military Junta

This photo released by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) shows weapons and supplies that it claims were seized from the Myanmar military following fighting in Shan State, Myanmar, December 7, 2023.

Credit: The Kokang

An alliance of ethnic armed groups in northern Myanmar yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to the overthrow of the country’s military government, following reports that it had engaged in talks with the regime in Naypyidaw.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance, made up of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Arakan Army, and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, has been on the offensive across northern Myanmar. Since the launch of its Operation 1027 has made significant gains, overrunning more than 200 military outposts, seizing important border crossings with China, and posing the greatest threat to the military junta since its seizure of power in February 2021.

In a post yesterday on X (formerly Twitter), the Alliance said that it “reaffirms [its] commitment” to bringing down the military dictatorship. “Significant progress made, but achieving our complete goals needs more time and ongoing efforts,” it stated. “Our dedication remains strong with the entire Myanmar population.”

The statement appears to reference reports earlier this week that representatives from the Alliance – or just the MNDAA, according to some reportstook part in peace talks brokered by the Chinese government.

The talks were confirmed by Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, the military government’s spokesperson, who said that another meeting would take place soon. “I would like to say that based on the progress of these discussions, there will be further discussions around the end of this month,” he said, The Associated Press reported.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also confirmed the talks, with a spokesperson in Beijing saying that her government was “happy to see the parties to the conflict in northern Myanmar hold peace talks and achieve positive results.” The location and exact date of the talks were not disclosed by either source.

In an article on Tuesday, I expressed skepticism that the talks, assuming they took place, would lead to any sort of breakthrough. While the military government and the Chinese authorities both have good reasons to open political dialogue with the resistance groups,  the same is not true of the Alliance, which continues to make gains on the battlefield. Even if the Chinese government has been able to use its influence with the Myanmar military and the various armed groups to bring them to the table, as it has done on many occasions in the recent past, it cannot force them to come to a political settlement or reconcile irreconcilable aims.

In this context, the statement by the Three Brotherhood Alliance seems intended to reassure those cheering on its offensive that it has no intention of selling out to the military, or squandering the current momentum of Operation 1027. That said, its statement that its ultimate objective is the overthrow of the military should also possibly be taken with a grain of salt. In its statement on X, the Alliance neither confirmed nor denied that it or one of its members participated in China-brokered talks with the Myanmar military.

Moreover, the members of the Alliance, like the multifarious elements of Myanmar’s resistance as a whole, have distinct political objectives that would likely be advanced by the military’s collapse but are not strictly dependent upon it. The overriding goal of the MNDAA, to take one example, is arguably the reconquest of Kokang, an autonomous region in northern Shan State from which it was expelled in 2009, and revenge on the former allies who helped facilitated it.

While the MNDAA is saying all the right things about bringing down the hated military regime, it remains unclear whether its goals genuinely stretch far beyond re-establishing its (non-democratic) control over Kokang. An uncompromising stance makes sense when a group’s goals have yet to be achieved, but at that point it would not be surprising to see its rhetoric shift accordingly.