Fallout from Northern Operations

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – December 15

Fallout from Northern Operations

MoeMaKa, December 17, 2023

**Diverse Goals of Northern Armed Groups and Lingering Impacts**

The conflict in northern Myanmar, particularly in the northeastern region of northern Shan State, remains a prominent focus in recent news.

The latest military developments in Northern Shan State include the TNLA’s ongoing battle to capture a military council base in Namhkam, the recent seizure of the military council camp near Namhkam and the 105-mile trade zone near Muse City on the China-Myanmar border, reports of Muse residents preparing for potential conflict, and the TNLA’s takeover of Namhsan, the headquarters of the Palaung Autonomous Region, located south of Namhkam and approximately 70 miles north of Kyaukme.

While the Arakan Army (AA) initially participated in operations in Northern Shan State, subsequent reports have omitted mention of the AA’s role. There is also a lack of news regarding smaller armed groups like the BPLA in the ongoing northern operations.

The MNDAA, a key player in the northern strategy, appears to have achieved many of its objectives. If Laukkaing, its final target, is captured, it would signify the fulfillment of all goals, including tackling online fraud gangs. Although the extent of success against online fraud gangs remains uncertain, China’s pressure on armed groups in border regions and ethnic autonomous areas has resulted in numerous arrests and declared fugitives with rewards.

The operation in northern Shan State has achieved territorial control for some ethnic armed groups, expanded control areas, and demonstrated the ability to capture cities, bolstering political momentum and securing border trade centers with China. While China wasn’t directly involved, the operation aligns with some of its interests, addressing issues related to online fraud gangs. However, the consequences, challenges, and unintended suffering, coupled with economic damage, pose significant challenges for armed forces opposing the military council.

On the military council’s side, losses include ground weapons and camps, incurring substantial expenses for weapons, aviation fuel, and spare parts to sustain daily airstrikes. The broader population is also grappling with the repercussions of kyat devaluation and shortages of essential commodities such as fuel, creating economic, social, and political dilemmas.

Despite these challenges, signs suggest that the military council is mobilizing all available forces, national resources, and foreign reserves for its military defense. The recent talks in Kunming, China, should be seen as a tactical maneuver rather than a sign of surrender.

Ethnic armed forces have experienced significant losses in resources, military strength, and ammunition during the month-and-a-half-long conflict. The destruction of trade route bridges, halted border trades, and the devastation of local residents’ properties and livelihoods further underscore the widespread impact. These losses, not mere expendable resources, represent the hard-earned savings of locals over decades. While the region has endured a civil war for over seven decades, the comprehensive war fought with all available forces is proving challenging to endure for an extended period.

The transformation from a military opportunity to a political one is a dynamic aspect to watch. It is crucial to recognize that wars can lead to a failed and destroyed nation if a new enemy emerges after the fall of the old one, perpetuating conflict across generations.