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Military battalion surrenders to ethnic insurgents at Myanmar's eastern border

The military's forces have been significantly depleted, with casualties, surrenders, and defections prompting the imposition of conscription on the population to compensate for losses.
12:35 AM Apr 08, 2024 IST | SURINDER SINGH OBEROI
military battalion surrenders to ethnic insurgents at myanmar s eastern border
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New Delhi, Apr 7: The military regime in Myanmar, which took control three years ago, faced a setback along the eastern border with Thailand as ethnic Karen insurgents, joined by other anti-coup forces, launched attacks.

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After enduring weeks of assaults, hundreds of troops guarding the border town of Myawaddy agreed to surrender, reported International media. This town serves as a vital hub for Myanmar's overland trade with Thailand.

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On Friday, the Karen National Union confirmed the acceptance of surrender from a battalion stationed in the nearby town of Thanganyinaung. A video released by the Karen forces showcased their jubilation as they displayed a substantial cache of captured weapons, BBC reported.

Negotiations over the weekend led to the surrender of the last remaining battalion within Myawaddy, marking a setback for the ruling military junta.

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This overthrow comes amidst a series of setbacks for the regime, including losing control over large areas along the Chinese border in Shan State and in Rakhine State near the Bangladeshi border.

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The military's forces have been significantly depleted, with casualties, surrenders, and defections prompting the imposition of conscription on the population to compensate for losses.

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The Karen National Union has a long history of advocating for self-rule for the ethnic Karen people since Myanmar's independence. The 2021 coup invalidated a national ceasefire, reigniting conflict.

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Karen State, due to its proximity to Yangon and its strategic importance as a route to the Thai border, became a refuge for dissidents fleeing post-coup crackdowns.

The Karen National Union has been instrumental in training and coordination with other insurgent groups, such as the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force and the Kachin Independence Army, which has strengthened the opposition's position.

A turning point occurred when a powerful militia, previously allied with the military junta, switched sides, further eroding the regime's control in Karen State. The military's inability to reinforce positions due to engagements in other parts of the country has led to the loss of key roads to the border.

In response, the junta escalated air strikes on insurgent-held areas, leading to displacement and humanitarian concerns. Myanmar's military government for more than a year, is confronting increasing control of opposition, losing significant territories to armed resistance groups. Since the coup on February 1, 2021, which led to the detention of elected leaders, the country has been embroiled in a violent civil conflict, resulting in thousands of deaths and millions displaced.

With the worsening situation in Myanmar, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a stern advisory in early February urging Indian citizens residing in Myanmar's Rakhine state to evacuate the region immediately, citing the escalating security crisis. Additionally, the MEA cautioned against any travel plans to Rakhine due to the precarious situation prevailing there.

"In light of the deteriorating security situation, disruption of communication channels, including landlines, and severe shortages of essential supplies, all Indian citizens are strongly advised against travelling to Myanmar's Rakhine State," stated the MEA.

The advisory continued, "For those Indian citizens already present in Rakhine State, it is imperative to vacate the area without delay."

Myanmar shares a lengthy 1,640-kilometer border with several northeastern states of India, including Nagaland and Manipur. Last month India had appealed for a complete halt to violence in Myanmar, advocating for the nation's transition towards an inclusive federal democracy.

MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal emphasised India's concern over Myanmar's deteriorating situation on February 1, stating, "As a neighbouring country and friend of Myanmar, India has long advocated for an end to violence and Myanmar's progression towards inclusive federal democracy."

Furthermore, in early February, Home Minister Amit Shah unveiled a comprehensive plan to fortify the open border with Myanmar. Shah outlined India's intention to secure the rugged 1,643km boundary like the existing fencing along the border with Bangladesh, which spans more than double the length. Shah also indicated the government's contemplation of scrapping a six-year-old free movement agreement, which permits border residents from India and Myanmar to travel up to 16km into each other's territory without a visa.

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