Civili conflict in Myanmar: over 11,000 fatalities in 6 months

Acled monitoring group reports data on first half of 2022. Yesterday protests against the UN special envoy's visit. The military junta forges closer ties with the Russian regime and strikes deal for oil supplies starting next month.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In the first six months of 2022, there were twice as many violent events by state forces against civilians in Myanmar as in Afghanistan. This is according to the latest report by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (Acled), which found that there were at least 668 army-led violent events in the first half of the year and 11,000 casualties in the civil conflict that has raged in the country for more than a year. 

According to U.N. data, nearly 1.25 million people are displaced, 903 thousand of them as a result of the war.

Armed struggle against the coup junta that ousted the government of Aung San Suu Kyi - sentenced to 17 years in prison and still on trial - and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), increased in 2022. The military has failed to consolidate its control over the country, often resorting to extreme violence, including against minors: "Civilians are being killed at checkpoints, tortured in prisons and killed following battles in villages. Children have also been targeted, as have family members of anti-golpe activists. In many cases, the military desecrated the bodies of those killed, cutting off body parts and setting fire to the corpses," the report says. 

Pro-regime militias have also been guilty of violent crimes, particularly against the last remaining NLD members in the country. The goal is to eliminate all opposition before general elections, which the military junta has said it wants to hold in 2023.

The conflict has the Burmese army on one side and the People's Defense Forces-the armed wing of the Government of National Unity in exile-on the other side, joined by ethnic militias historically present in Burma's various states. In the coming months the conflict could spill over into Rakhine, where the Arakan Army, the local militia, had signed an armistice with the military in 2020. In recent months, however, regime troops have struck some Arakan bases. It remains to be seen, however, whether escalation will occur.

Meanwhile, U.N. Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer met yesterday with the head of the Burmese junta, General Min Aung Hlaing. According to the diplomat's statements, the meeting "was aimed at communicating in person practical steps to reduce the escalation of violence and address the crisis." Specifying further that the visit was not to be seen as legitimizing the regime, Heyzer called on the military to suspend future executions, following those conducted against four well-known pro-democracy activists.

Yesterday, anti-regime activists on the west bank of the Chindwin River in the Sagaing region staged a protest on the rubble of a village set on fire by Burmese troops. On the plates recovered from the fire was written, "How many corpses does the UN need to act?" (see photo).

Experts say dialogue with the coup generals has proven futile: the junta has refused to implement the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (Asean) five-point peacemaking plan, which recently decided to exclude Myanmar from all future summits of the organization.

Myanmar, which is increasingly isolated from the international community, is consequently growing closer to anti-democratic regimes such as Russia, from which the Burmese military already receives most of its ammunition and armaments. But according to the Tatmadaw yesterday, starting next month Myanmar will also import Russian fuel in an attempt to circumvent Western sanctions imposed on both countries. The army spokesman added that Myanmar may also consider joint oil exploration with Moscow and Beijing.