Over two years ago, a military coup in Myanmar ended the democratic transition on which the country had been embarked for a decade. Yet the military junta has encountered a surprisingly effective, if under-resourced, armed resistance in both rural and urban Bamar areas, intensifying violent conflict that for many years centered on ethnic minority areas. Despite its typical brutal military response, the junta has not been able to extinguish the armed groups, and the civil war has spread and intensified. Yet the various Bamar resistance groups and ethnic armed organizations are nowhere close to defeating the junta either. Russia with weapons and India with arms and diplomacy have visibly supported the junta, while China’s posture has remained more understated. Although condemning the coup and imposing sanctions on the junta, the West has not provided the armed resistance groups with the military and financial assistance they seek.
On March 13, the Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors hosted a webinar to explore the violence dynamics, the strength and limitations of the armed resistance groups and the Burmese military, changes in Myanmar’s many illegal economies, and other difficult issues ahead should violence come to an end. Vanda Felbab-Brown, the director of the Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors at Brookings, moderated a discussion with Richard Horsey, Yun Sun, Min Zaw Oo, and Thinzar Shunlei Yi.