Junta chief under pressure three years after coup
In mid-January, at a small gathering in a cantonment town in Myanmar, hard line pro-military monk Pauk Kotaw suggested that the country's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing step down and his deputy take over. The crowd cheered in agreement, according to videos of the event posted on social media.
Online, pro-military journalists and bloggers have been similarly direct. "He should resign as commander-in-chief," Ko Maung Maung, a pro-military Youtuber said in a post.
Such public utterances against Myanmar's powerful junta leader and the chief of its armed forces would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.
But after seizing power in a dawn coup d'etat on February 1, 2021, Min Aung Hlaing finds himself in his weakest position since deposing the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Questions about the 67-year-old's leadership are being asked after a series of battlefield defeats for the military in a sweeping offensive by rebel groups.
Questions about the 67-year-old's leadership are being asked after a series of battlefield defeats for the military in a sweeping offensive by rebel groups that started in October, dubbed Operation 1027.
So far, the junta has lost control of at least 35 towns, according to the media collective Myanmar Peace Monitor, although a Beijing-mediated ceasefire has halted clashes near the Chinese border. In other parts, fighting continues.
The junta has previously acknowledged some loss of control of territory.
"There is deep frustration within the military, which extends to Min Aung Hlaing personally," a diplomat in Southeast Asia told Reuters, asking not to be named.