Developments: Ethnic Armed Group Declares War

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – January 26 by MoeMaKa Media:

Developments: Ethnic Armed Group Declares War

In a significant escalation of hostilities, the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), an ethnic armed group with a history of non-confrontation with the military council, has issued a bold declaration of war against the junta. The announcement follows an armed clash between the PNLO and military council forces on January 21 when a PNLO convoy, transporting weapons and ammunition, was intercepted.

The dynamic of conflict in Shan State, where numerous ethnic armed groups operate, is intricate, with regions demonstrating varied responses to the military council’s authority. The recent declaration by the PNLO to explicitly combat the military council signifies a shift, turning certain areas on the Shan State map red, indicating potential war zones in locales like Hopong, Hsihseng, Hsig Khaung, and Banyin.

A strategic alignment is forming among armed groups in Shan State, with the “Wa” armed group in Shan East and Shan South regions, the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), and the newly confrontational PNLO forming a united front. This alliance, extending towards armed groups in Karenni State, is poised to significantly alter the Shan State conflict landscape.

The timing of the PNLO’s decision to engage in hostilities after nearly three years of restraint prompts questions. In their announcements, the PNLO cited dissatisfaction with the lack of tangible outcomes from their participation in the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) for eight years. Despite engaging in discussions during the NLD government’s tenure and the subsequent military coup, the PNLO claims to have seen no substantial results from their involvement in the NCA.

Factors such as the trajectory of armed struggle, concerns for local residents’ safety, risks of property loss, and community destruction may have influenced the PNLO’s decision to refrain from military action for an extended period. However, the recent explicit declaration of war and attacks on the police station in Hsihseng underscore a clear shift in their stance.

The conflict in the Pa’O region extends beyond clashes between the military council and the PNLO. The Pa’O National Organization (PNO), functioning as the Pa’O Border Guard Force, is actively engaged in the southern part of Shan State, predominantly inhabited by the Pa’O people. Reports indicate PNO involvement in battles between the Karen National Defense Force (KNDF) and the military council, including the recent interception of a convoy carrying weapons.

This situation mirrors conflicts like the one between the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF) and the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) in Karen State.

Analyzing the current armed conflict’s geographical and intensity aspects in Myanmar, the regions most heavily affected include Karenni State, Northern Shan State, Rakhine State, specific areas in Kachin State, the upper part of Sagaing Division, and certain regions in Karen State. Moderately intensified regions include parts of Sagaing Division, Magway Division, Chin State, Kachin State, Tanintharyi Division, Mon State, and Karen State. While regional joint attacks intensify, a coordinated and synchronized national-scale movement has yet to emerge.

Anticipations suggest that the armed conflict will broaden in terms of location and intensity in the near term, potentially leading to an increased exodus of civilians fleeing conflict zones.