Fighting In Myanmar: Dozens of towns, bases fall to separatists
The Arakan Army's late Wednesday claim that it "completely controlled" Pauktaw, a town of 20,000 people close to a crucial deep water port in the capital of western Rakhine state in Myanmar, is one of a series of wins for the Three Brotherhood Alliance.
The alliance also has the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta'ang National Liberation Army.
Their gain is further proof that, the recently China-brokered cease-fire, fighting has not stopped completely, reports AFP.
Myanmar has been in chaos ever since General Min Aung Hlaing and his military forces overthrew the democratically elected government in February 2021. The coup sparked an armed conflict between the civilian-led National Unity Government, people's defense forces and ethnic armed groups, reports DW.
The conflict was seen as a war of attrition until a sweeping offensive that began with Operation 1027 in October, with the three Brotherhood Alliance members from Myanmar's Shan State joining forces. Their aim has been to remove military rule in disputed territories, and in nearly three months, dozens of townships and hundreds of junta-held military bases have been captured. The offensive has also spread to other regions and states in Myanmar.
Kyaw Hsan Hlaing, a political analyst from Myanmar said, "The success of Operation 1027 has been a historical milestone for the Myanmar resistance and civil war, marking the major achievement in taking down several cities. This accomplishment has motivated the rest of the major resistance groups across the country."
One the biggest successes from the rebel offensive so far is the capture of Laukkai, the capital of the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, which is along the Myanmar-China border, with the MNDAA claiming control of the city earlier this month.
The conflict in the region has caught China attention because of trade disruptions and an increase in refugees on its border with Myanmar. Beijing has twice failed to broker a ceasefire to reduce further risks.
But earlier this month China's foreign ministry confirmed peace talks had taken place between alliance and junta representatives in Kunming and that "an immediate ceasefire" had been agreed with all parties agreeing to call a halt to fighting in their given locations.
Hlaing says despite the truce and attempts for previous ceasefires, it hasn't completely stopped the fighting.
"I think the current truce won't mark the end of the war between the alliance and junta forces," he told DW. "However, the war might cease in the Kokang area for a while. Before the current truce between the alliance and junta forces, they had at least two meetings brokered by China, but no results were achieved. The alliance continued fighting until it achieved its military objectives, especially a full seizure of Laukkai."
A ceasefire was unable to fully hold according to a statement from the Three Brotherhood Alliance. Only days after the agreed truce, Myanmar army troops had allegedly fired grenades toward alliance forces in Kachin, prompting opposition forces to fire back in retaliation.
As for those opposing the Myanmar military, with fighting still escalating elsewhere, a ceasefire may have come at the wrong time. Anti-junta supporters had hoped the military's control was reeling nationwide and that the junta's losses would propel the operation to expand into Myanmar's key urban cities. With a ceasefire in place, questions remain over whether the momentum will continue.
But David Scott Mathieson, a Myanmar analyst, says a ceasefire won't determine the opposition alliance's strategy moving forward.
"I think it's impossible to predict where the conflict is going, although it is worth considering that any change in momentum by the [Three Brotherhood Alliance] will be determined by their multiple strategies, not through outside pressure."
As for Operation 1027, Mathieson insists the gains from the offensive have already been significant.
"In some ways, the damage from Operation 1027 has already been accomplished, with so much territory overrun, bases and equipment captured, and the Myanmar army unable to retake any of it back. Operation 1027 hasn't been confined to Northern Shan State, but an almost unprecedented campaign of fighting in Chin and Rakhine State with the Arakan Army. Fighting in Karenni, Kachin and Pegu also continues, as does Chin and Sagaing," Mathieson continued.
"Their massive defense factories might be able to manufacture armaments and supplies and keep the air force flying, but it's the broader degrading of the infantry that should worry the military leadership and the impact on morale and prestige. However, a military diminished is not necessarily defeated, not yet," he added.