Whose Hands Will Myawaddy Fall Into? Internal Conflict Among the SAC

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – April 12 Scenes
MoeMaKa, April 13, 2024

Whose Hands Will Myawaddy Fall Into? Internal Conflict Among the SAC

As Myawaddy, the Myanmar-Thai border trade town, seemed poised to fall to revolutionary armed forces, the situation remained fluid, with significant changes reported hourly. After the Karen National Union (KNU) and allied forces captured battalions and strategic camps near Myawaddy, the IB-275 Battalion, the city’s guard battalion, fell on April 11. Initially, reports suggested that the battalion’s troops were positioning themselves at the base of Friendship Bridge No. 2, preparing to enter Thailand. However, by April 12, it was reported that the IB-275 troops were waiting for reinforcements instead of crossing into Thailand.

While Myawaddy is largely under the control of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and People’s Defense Force (PDF) coalitions, reports indicate that the Karen National Army (KNA), which evolved from the Border Guard Force (BGF), also has partial control over the town. The KNA controls areas such as Shwe Koke Ko and has been generating revenue through illegal toll gates along the Thaung Yin River between Myawaddy and Mae Sot.

On April 12, the KNU issued a statement about ensuring peace and stability in the border region and public safety. They emphasized cutting off reinforcements from the military council to prevent the loss of the city but acknowledged that the situation remained unstable.

The KNU also expressed intentions to prepare for administrative and trade-related services, such as border trade. They aim to collaborate with the Thai government and border-based Karen armed organizations to restore peace and stability for people living on both sides of the border.

Key issues requiring discussion include the relationship between the KNA and the KNU, control over Myawaddy Town and border trade gates, management of the two bridges between the countries, tax collection, and the stance towards the remaining military council forces. Implementing these measures is challenging due to the rapidly changing situation, and the involved armed organizations are likely making decisions based on evolving circumstances.

Myawaddy’s border trade is significant for the military council’s income and symbolic of its power. For the revolutionary armed forces, controlling this town is both a financial boon and a military victory. The complexity arises from the involvement of multiple armed forces, unlike other border towns.

In parallel, internal conflicts within the military council are becoming apparent. Recently, a former military general and USDP party leader was arrested in Nay Pyi Taw, and his house was sealed. Officially, the arrest was due to a decade-long bribery case, but speculations suggest it might be linked to attempts to oust Min Aung Hlaing from power. U Myint Hlaing, a key figure in military intelligence operations in the early 2000s and a former minister under U Thein Sein’s government, was arrested on April 10. The timing and context of his arrest suggest that it may be more about challenging Min Aung Hlaing’s leadership than past corruption.

As Min Aung Hlaing loses territories, dissatisfaction grows among military leaders and former generals regarding the current leadership and political strategies. This dissatisfaction is evident as the military council faces intense combat with opposition forces, with troops defecting, crossing borders, and seeking asylum.

These developments indicate a loss of confidence in Min Aung Hlaing’s leadership, causing hesitance among the military council forces, avoidance of battles, and even surrender.