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Unrest In Myanmar

The military conflict in Myanmar, resurging with the coordinated attack carried out by the Arakan Army, Ta’ang Army and the National Democratic Alliance on October 27, 2023, has triggered other ethnic military groups to take similar action. The evolving unrest has restrained the military from responding. The anti-junta forces include over 250 groups, which are disparate and spread across the country. This has left the State Administration with stable control over only 17% of the country’s territory.

The US Institute of Peace stated that the resistance is “determined to break with past social and political patterns to stake out a new future for the country, one that honours diversity and turns it into a strength”. There is an emergence of a new generation of political leaders, shaped by this movement, that look to forge an interethnic cooperation to prevent dictatorial rule in the country. Yet, amongst this diversity of groups and representations, the concerns remain united.


While political instability has been a parcel of Myanmar’s democracy, the military coup in February 2021 was a major hindrance to the reforms in the country. The military, Tatmadaw, is opposed by diverse ethnic groups. To this, the Council on Foreign Relations wrote, “The coup has also brought economic turmoil, wiping out modest gains in poverty reduction made over the past decade. The economy shrank by nearly 20 per cent in 2021”. 

The ripple effects of the military turmoil included the collapse of the healthcare system amid the spread of COVID-19, rising hunger, and forced displacement. Subsequently, rapid protests erupted in the country as part of a peaceful civil disobedience movement. A parallel government known as the National Unity Government was established to bring together the opposition groups which declared war on the junta and formed an armed division named the People’s Defence Force.

Following in January 2022, the US Institute of Peace reported, “We’re seeing fighting now in townships that have not witnessed any form of fighting since Myanmar’s independence”; “Notably, violence is not limited to the areas on Myanmar’s borders that have large ethnic minority populations, but is also occurring in major central cities such as Mandalay and Yangon. The widespread violence has led thousands of civilians to flee into neighbouring India and Thailand”.

Current Situation

According to the United Nations, since 2021, there has been a 17-fold increase in the number of persons requiring humanitarian assistance in Myanmar.

Supporting international humanitarian aid for Myanmar has been a leading call. In 2023 so far, the EU allocated €31.5 million to address the immediate needs of the most vulnerable people. This includes displaced and conflict-affected communities. Therefore, an emergency allocation of €4.5 million was made in July for food and health assistance and an additional €7 million was approved recently.

According to the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, “In May 2023, when the devastating Cyclone Mocha slammed into Myanmar’s coastline, the EU quickly mobilised €2 million in immediate assistance to people affected by the disaster. In mid-2020, the EU released €85,000 to support those affected by a deadly landslide in a jade mining community in northern Kachin. The funding covered search and rescue efforts, first aid and psychological support, and cash grants to vulnerable families”.

Yet, global efforts continue to fall short with over 500,000 people forcefully displaced since October 27, 2023, adding to a total of 2.5 million persons displaced since the beginning of the coup in 2021. The New Humanitarian recorded the lack of action of international NGOs about  the military conflict in Myanmar. The military initially blocked aid from reaching the communities affected by the Rakhine cyclone in May 2023. Aung Kyaw Moe, the deputy minister for the NUG’s Ministry of Human Rights said, “Localisation is the key in delivering aid, given the complexity of humanitarianism and access to the space. Those organisations need to be given resources”.

How will aid reach?

The dynamic of the evolving conflict situation, it is increasingly difficult for international aid to reach the affected communities. Thereby, local aid groups have become greatly important. Aung Moe has argued that there must be flexible communication and coordination between international and local aid organisations such that funds are accessible to the communities. “Localisation is the key in delivering aid, given the complexity of humanitarianism and access to the space. Those organisations need to be given resources. They know the context dynamic and the conflict sensitivity, but when the benchmarks are so high to access resources being allocated by the international community, it is so difficult.” said Moe.

The UN Humanitarian Response Plan, 2023 for Myanmar is less than 30% funded. Yet, the UNHCR has planned to deliver humanitarian assistance in 2024, providing durable solutions for the internally displaced and stateless persons. It will seek resettlement opportunities for 31,400 Rohingya refugees in the year.

Recent analysis presents the foreseeable collapse of the junta. The efforts, specifically since October 27, 2023, have provided a nationwide push to regain control of parts of the territory while routing out the deeply entrenched institution is still a long journey.

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