As Russia withdraws resources from Myanmar to focus on Ukraine, China has filled the void by publicly supporting the junta. Meanwhile, the situation inside Myanmar continues to deteriorate, with “the military only able to hang on [to power] by using violence of tragic proportions,” says USIP’s Jason Tower.
Myanmar has collapsed into horrific violence since the military sought to retake full control of the country on February 1. Western governments have watched in distress as soldiers rounded up civilian leaders including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, restricted internet access, rolled back individual freedoms and ultimately employed violence against the people. These domestic effects of the coup have been widely noted. USIP’s Jason Tower examines here the less discussed international security repercussions, the response of regional actors and options for preventing mass atrocities in the coming weeks.
In 2011, U.S. president Barack Obama announced plans to "pivot" toward Asia. In 2012, Chinese president Xi Jinping expressed his hope for "a new type of relationship" with the United States. A lack of strategic trust between the two countries, however, prevents critically needed productive cooperation. This Peace Brief addresses the misunderstandings behind this mistrust and a possible way to move beyond them.
From virtually the moment Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government last year, the generals have faced a popular uprising that they met with escalating brutality. Even so, their decision last week to put to death — by hanging — four high-profile democracy advocates sparked shock and outrage at home and around the world. USIP’s Jason Tower, Priscilla Clapp and Billy Ford discuss what is behind the coup regime’s bloody move and its implications for Myanmar and international efforts to bring peace and democracy to the Southeast Asian country.
The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to win Myanmar’s general elections on November 8, but the 2020 race is much more hotly contested than 2015. The growing political frustration of the country’s non-Burma ethnic nationalities is fueling insurgencies and the military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party, and its armed forces patrons, are criticizing the government and attacking the country’s feeble electoral institutions. The way Myanmar’s ethnic nationalities experience the process will have major implications for peacemaking efforts moving forward.
Seeking to profit from China's lucrative but illegal gambling market, a shady web of actors has begun building resort cities in Myanmar’s Karen State to cater to Chinese gamblers. This report casts light on the actors behind Myanmar’s illegal gambling sector, their linkages to Chinese government entities and to Myanmar's armed groups and military, and how their actions could upend Myanmar’s prospects for peace.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently met with representatives of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) — a shadow government representing the lawmakers elected by the people in the November 2020 election. The meeting boosted the NUG’s regional and international profile as an alternative to the brutal violence of the Burmese military, which has failed to gain control over the country since last February’s coup. But questions remain about whether the NUG and the disparate ethnic armed groups, political parties and civil society leaders that reject military rule can find common ground beyond a shared enemy.
The 2021 military coup in Myanmar not only triggered an unprecedented nationwide revolt against military rule but is increasingly precipitating challenges to global security. The junta’s ineffectual rule has resulted in the rise of cross-border human trafficking and cyber scams, which have impacted almost every corner of the globe, taking an especially heavy toll on China’s people while also benefiting organized Chinese crime groups. Beijing’s response to the situation in Myanmar has been mixed. While it has backed the junta, China has also hedged by supporting some of Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic armed organizations, extending Chinese influence in the country.
Since late 2022, Beijing has increasingly signaled the limits of its support for Myanmar’s junta against pro-democracy forces and protection against international efforts to hold the army accountable for its crimes. In particular, Beijing has demonstrated a reluctance when doing the junta’s bidding internationally results in significant political costs vis-à-vis its relations with Southeast Asian states or its reputation at the United Nations.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Myanmar last week was the first by a senior Beijing official since a military coup toppled Myanmar’s elected government in February 2021. Its ostensible purpose was to co-chair the foreign ministers meeting of a Chinese-led subregional framework known as the Lancang Mekong Cooperation Forum. Its deeper — though related — significance was to deliver a crystal-clear message on the conflict raging in Myanmar: China has chosen to bolster Myanmar’s military in its fight against a rapidly growing popular resistance movement and will support the junta’s position within key multilateral platforms.