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Updated May 29, 2024, 8:40am EDT
politicssecuritySoutheast Asia
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Semafor Signals

Why the West needs to pay attention to Myanmar’s anti-junta forces

Insights from The Washington Post, Bloomberg, and The New Humanitarian

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A Karen National Liberation Army soldier carries an RPG launcher at a Myanmar military base on the outskirts of Myawaddy, the Thailand-Myanmar border town
Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
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The News

Anti-junta forces in Myanmar have gained scores of towns and army bases from the ruling military in recent months, reigniting hopes of a turning point in a three-year-long civil war that has seen more than 3 million people internally displaced and at least 8,000 civilians killed.

The junta, which seized power from a democratically-elected government in 2021, is struggling to replenish ground troop losses amid widespread defections, casualties, and surrenders, making it “nearly impossible” to retake lost territory, according to the United States Institute of Peace.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Potential Western support for rebels will be ‘politically fraught’

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Sources:  
The Washington Post , Lowy Institute , Bloomberg

The US “should be doing a lot more to bring a decent end to the war,” The Washington Post’s Keith B. Richburg argued. President Joe Biden must bring armed rebel groups and the exiled National Unity Government together “around a common agenda of federalism and democracy” against a brutal junta, he added. Building a genuine federal democracy will “likely take years of highly complex and politically fraught negotiations,” wrote a Myanmar expert for the Lowy Institute, but some resistance groups have already begun instituting state-like structures in areas under their control. Risk-averse governments and donors may be wary of working with armed organizations rather than states but can identify groups that value inclusive, civilian-led structures and international humanitarian law, a Bloomberg columnist wrote.


Eyes on Rohingya caught in the crossfire

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Sources:  
United Nations , Human Rights Watch , The New Humanitarian , Observer Research Foundation

The international community risks “failing a desperate people in their hour of peril” if it does not take action to prevent another Rohingya bloodbath like in 2017, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said. More than 1,000 men from the mostly Muslim minority have been abducted and forcibly conscripted from across Rakhine State since February 2024, according to Human Rights Watch, but there are also allegations of extortion and targeted killings at the hands of the anti-junta Arakan Army, The New Humanitarian reported. Concrete international actions to address the persecution of the Rohingya “remain elusive” and the lack of accountability mechanisms perpetuates the cycle of violence, Sreeparna Banerjee from the Observer Research Foundation warned.

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