HomePoliticsMyanmar’s Civil War since 2021

Myanmar’s Civil War since 2021

Myanmar, or Burma officially Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country of Southeast Asia. After its independence in 1948, the military took power in a coup in 1962, and nationalized major economic sectors. Civilian unrest in the 1980s led to anti-government rioting that was suppressed by force. In 1990 opposition parties won in national elections, but the army remained in control, changing the name of the country to Myanmar. A coup in 2021 returned the country to military rule. The country is no stranger to military coups either.


The civil war in Myanmar has been ongoing since 1948. The fighting between the central government dominated by the Bamar majority and the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) has never completely ceased since the country’s independence decades before the 2021 coup.
Myanmar’s first constitution came into force on Jan. 4, 1974, the 26th anniversary of the country’s independence which was suspended in 1988 following a military coup. Throughout its decades of independence, Myanmar has struggled with military rule, civil war, poor governance, and widespread poverty. A military coup in February 2021 dashed the hopes for democratic reforms in the Southeast Asian nation again.

What has happened in the 2021 coup?

In February 2021, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders staged a coup. The move came after the military’s proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), suffered a major blow in the 2020 elections.
In February 2021 the military seized power by detaining the president, upon which one of the vice presidents, a former military officer, who became the acting president of Myanmar and immediately invoked articles 417 and 418 of the constitution: the former allowing him to declare a one-year state of emergency and the latter allowing him to transfer power to the commander in chief of the armed forces. The legislative houses were also suspended as per article 418. The military of Myanmar, known as the Tatmadaw, is opposed widely and vehemently by militias formed by common citizens and ethnic armed groups or organisation (EAOs) it had been battling even before the coup.

The junta, officially known as the State Administration Council, imprisoned, and charged Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto civilian leader, with corruption and other offences. It put politicians affiliated with her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and other parties under house arrest, as well as many activists. The United Nations, foreign governments, and human rights organisations have all condemned the military’s violent assault on opposition and extensive atrocities during the conflict. Military soldiers fired live bullets at civilian demonstrators and into people’s houses in the immediate aftermath of the coup. By late 2021, the military had destroyed entire towns thought to be sympathetic to the resistance, slaughtering both civilians and opposition militants. According to the Thailand-based NGO Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), at least 1,500 people have been slain by the military, which is certainly an undercount. The junta has detained around 8000 people, including journalists, doctors, and NLD politicians.

Prior to the coup, the Burmese people had experienced democracy and freedom, as well as the free flow of ideas, information, people, and economic possibilities under a democratic government. They simply refuse to return to additional decades of military control, despite the fact that the Burmese military regards military rule as its natural prerogative and the country’s normal status. Opposition to the coup and rejection of military authority have been the most effective elements bringing the rest of the country together and, significantly, pulling disparate resistance forces together.

Since its independence from British colonial authority in 1948, Myanmar has been ruled by a military junta for many years. The Union of Burma, like most of its newly independent neighbours on the Indian subcontinent, began as a parliamentary democracy. However, representative democracy lasted only until 1962, when General Ne Win launched a military coup and seized control for the next twenty-six years.
Although the resistance is still fragmented, it somewhat improved in 2022. In terms of political discussion and reconciliation, Myanmar’s resistance groups still have a long way to go. For the time being, though, all individuals’ top priority remains fighting the Burmese military. Despite the resistance forces’ common goal, the Burmese civil war is at a standstill and will likely remain thus for the foreseeable future. The power disparity between the Burmese military and the opposition (People’s Defence Force and EAOs combined) remains substantial, not just in terms of size but also weaponry and firepower.

On April 11, the junta in Myanmar notoriously known for its attacks on civilians, carried out air strikes on an opposition gathering in the rebel held Sagaing region, killing over 100, including women and children. The opponent, National Unity Government (NUG), as well as the witnesses, said a fighter jet and a combat helicopter bombed the gathering, which was celebrating the opening of an administrative office of the NUG at Pa Zi Gyi. The junta later even confirmed the strike but argued that most of those killed were resistance fighters. More than 100 people and counting are feared to have been killed in Tuesday’s airstrike by the Myanmar military, one of the deadliest so far in the civil war. After the airstrike, residents uploaded video showing scenes of appalling carnage, with dismembered bodies lying on the ground and several buildings on fire. “Please call out if you are still alive, we are coming to help you,” they were heard shouting as they walked through Pa Zi Gyi looking for victims of the attack.

In the past, the nonviolent democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi was the main source of opposition to military administrations. However, following the February 2021 coup that deposed an increasingly popular Ms. Suu Kyi, the country devolved into a civil war between the administration and the NUG.

According to a BBC analysis of data from the conflict-monitoring group Acled, there were at least 600 air attacks by the military between February 2021 and January 2023 in Myanmar.
Myanmar is a country of great ethnic diversity. The Burmans, who form the largest group, account for more than half of the population and have enjoyed a privileged position in society and have held most of the government and military positions. On the other hand, many ethnic minority groups, have faced systemic discrimination and abuses at the hands of the military and are still facing.

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