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Despite airstrikes, Myanmar’s anti-coup soldiers remain optimistic.

Air raids, according to opposition groups, are a demonstration of the military’s frailty rather than its might after its power grab in February 2021.

In Myanmar, optimism has come to represent resistance to military rule.

On February 1, 2021, the military took over for the first time, and what followed was a wave of peaceful protests that resembled an euphoric street party. Demonstrators performed in the streets while carrying amusing signs, crazy costumes, and singing.

In a nation where the military services have a history of using violence against individuals who disagree with them, there were no illusions about what may happen next. One demonstrator stated that they would be willing to lose 100 or even 1,000 people in order to see the military defeated.

After two years, some people have gotten into the armed forces and allied with ethnic armed groups that have been battling for more autonomy for years. Now that it looks the nation is engaged in a full-fledged civil war, the military is increasingly employing air power and heavy weapons against their weakly armed adversaries.

According to some predictions, more than 20,000 people will die in 2022, including both civilians and combatants, making it the second-highest death toll after Ukraine. Despite this, those who are committed to remove the generals from power are still optimistic.

The anti-coup Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF), which predominantly operates in Kayah State and southern Shan State close to the Thai border, has lost several of its comrades in battle, but Albert stressed that giving out now is not an option. If we maintain up our current pace, a breakthrough will occur in 2023.

According to a new analysis (PDF) published by Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, on the eve of the coup anniversary, there have been at least 10,000 attacks and armed clashes between the military and opponents since the coup, and violent incidents have occurred in at least 78% of townships between July and December 2022.

Even though that implies the regime is not any closer to firmly establishing its hold over the nation, it also suggests it does not appear to be in danger of collapsing.

“There is now a new equilibrium. According to Min Zaw Oo, executive director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security and an expert on conflict in Myanmar, there must be significant breakthroughs on either side for the current impasse to be broken. The military has failed to restore most theaters to “a pre-coup status quo,” while the opposition has been unable to “secure important locations,” he continued, adding that “the landscape has stayed the same in general 2022.”

The towns of Moebye in southern Shan State, Kawkareik, and Kyondoe in Kayin State are just a few of the important metropolitan centers that anti-coup forces have attempted to seize control of. Although they frequently succeed in pushing the military out, the military’s growing reliance on air power and distant artillery makes it challenging for them to hold onto the land they seize.

“Airstrikes have a significant effect here… Without air defense, it is very challenging for us to seize control of cities and urban regions. Taw Nee, a spokesman for the Karen National Union (KNU), one of Myanmar’s oldest and most potent ethnic armed organizations, who has partnered with the pro-democracy resistance known generally as People’s Defence Forces, said that even if we can capture an area, it’s difficult to control it without air defense (PDF). Additionally, Min Zaw Oo noted that while resistance forces frequently struggle to retain and defend seized facilities or outposts, attacks on “fortified locations of the military” have a 40–45 percent success rate.

The recent burning of an outpost in Kayah State’s Bawlakhe Township serves as an example of how frequently they choose to destroy them instead.

The opposition’s attack is still a guerrilla one, according to Min Zaw Oo.

Some conflict specialists have stated that rather than attempting to capture land, rebel organizations should continue to wage guerrilla warfare against the authorities. To avoid “trying prematurely to move from guerilla tactics to semi-conventional operations,” Anthony Davis, a security analyst for Jane’s Defence, issued a warning in November.

Min Zaw Oo stated that there are four “obstacles” for the resistance to get beyond, including greater access to weaponry (he believes that just 10% of resistance fighters have automatic weapons), gaining the support of more potent ethnic armed organizations, and an enhanced chain of command.

According to him, assistance from nearby nations like Thailand and China is also essential.

Without conquering these challenges, he claimed, the oppositions “would not be able to achieve a change in their favor.”

While some significant ethnic armed organizations, including as the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), Karenni Army, Chin National Front (CNF), and KNU, have backed the pro-democracy movement, others have been more circumspect.

Instead, the United Wa State Army, the most potent non-state armed organization in the nation, has seized the opportunity of the military’s weaker position to call for more formal recognition of the region it controls. A potential game-changer, though, is the growing indications of cooperation between two other powerful factions and the ones working against the regime.

Albert claims that the KNDF is better off in 2022 compared to the year before, with a more established chain of command, better access to contemporary weapons, and more specialized military training. He claims that there have nonetheless been losses, such as the early element of surprise being lost when the regime was taken off guard by massive armed uprisings against its control.

“In the past, the junta misjudged us… Now that they are ready, Around their bases, they lay a lot of landmines. Retconning to attack them now takes weeks, he claimed.

And after 30 or 45 minutes, military jets will arrive, so we have to destroy it quickly and flee. The military has changed its traditional practice of primarily deploying air operations to bolster ground soldiers or terrorize civilian towns it suspects are supporting resistance fighters, and has increased its air campaign in recent months.

Today, it is hitting high-profile targets more frequently, frequently without any ground combat, as seen in incidents like the KIO event in November, the CNF headquarters in January, and a PDF facility in February.

Armed opposition organizations and pro-human rights activists have repeatedly urged the international community to establish a no-fly zone over Myanmar or a ban on the export of aviation fuel.

Last year, it was revealed by an Amnesty International investigation that the military had access to fuel that had been delivered to Myanmar allegedly for commercial usage.

It is clear that the resistance is optimistic despite this strong onslaught.

Myo Thura Ko Ko, a representative for the mixed command Cobra Column, which is led by the KNU and PDF, stated that the group had “hoped the military would use airstrikes on us one day.” He believes the regime is losing ground because it is relying more on airstrikes.

He continued, “The military deploys air strikes when their troops are losing on the field of battle or when their morale is down. A CNF representative named Htet Ni concurs.

Even if the worst occurs, we must continue our movement. I have nothing more to add. The military would target us with airstrikes more frequently as the revolution gets stronger, he predicted.

According to Htet Ni, the established ethnic armed groups have only grown more reliant on airstrikes, which has brought them closer to their new PDF allies.

“It has strengthened our bonds of unity… No retreat is ever possible. We shall fight alongside the populace because this is our chance to overthrow the military.

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