This week, Myanmar’s military government issued a six-month extension to the state of emergency as the two-year limit on the measure was about to expire. It imposed a state of emergency on February 1, 2021, after overthrowing the country’s democratically-elected government. The junta’s ‘justification’ at the time — widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election — was unequivocally rejected by domestic and international observers.
The coup has unleashed one of the most violent periods in the country’s 75-year history, pitting the military against increasingly determined resistance forces made up of ethnic armed organizations and regular citizens.
Both sides escalate, adapt
While neither side in the conflict appears to be gaining a decisive upper hand, the situation is by no means static. Resistance forces are at a sharp disadvantage in military hardware but have managed to gain control of sizable rural areas and even some urban areas. However, the military’s growing reliance on air power has made it difficult for the resistance to maintain control of many towns and cities.
The military has also been willing to resort to ‘scorched earth’ tactics, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians. These tactics have not had the intended deterrent effect; even as casualties mount, the resistance reportedly remains confident that the junta is increasingly acting out of desperation.
Canada stays focused on humanitarian needs
The conflict in Myanmar is of more than passing interest to Canada. Since 2017, Ottawa has committed significant resources to address the humanitarian crises spawned by the military’s ruthless persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. Canada has also been instrumental in advancing the case before the International Court of Justice, accusing Myanmar’s military of genocide against the Rohingya.
Canada released a new ‘Myanmar policy’ in June 2022. The updated policy reinforced Canada’s commitment to the Rohingya and also extended assistance to include pro-democratic forces. This commitment is needed more than ever, as the violence shows no signs of abating.