Meeting held in the last two weeks with ousted State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi as the military regime appears to be putting out feelers amid a worsening security situation in the troubled country which now finds itself engaged in a vicious civil war between Myanmar’s armed forces and the People’s Defense Armed Forces (PDF) of the democratic government.

Faced with losing a civil war which is reaching into the urban centres and having lost control of most of the country, the desperate Myanmar regime is reported, in recent days, to have made approaches to the country’s democratic figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi seeking peace talks to bring the conflict to an end. However, it is thought the country’s National Unity Government (NUG) is adopting a hardline stance as it seeks nothing less than the capitulation of the generals and the defeat of the Burmese military to the elected leadership of the country.

News of the meetings between high-ranking officials of the illegal and unrecognised military regime led by General Min Aung Hlaing and the imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi (centre) comes as an Oslo-based institute gives credence to reports of tens of thousands of casualties in the bloody civil war which has been ongoing since 2021 and which sees the hated Tatmadaw in retreat across Burma with desertions and defections.

The hated Myanmar junta regime is belatedly trying to mend fences with the country’s former de facto ruler who was overthrown in a coup staged over two years ago on February 1st 2021.

It comes with growing reports that the armed forces attached to the junta are both losing ground and numbers from its ranks as the military is inexorably losing its bloody civil war with a strengthened People’s Defense Armed Forces (PDF), the military wing of the National Unity Government (NUG) which claims to be the legitimate power in Myanmar and is made up of representatives of the former regime and those elected in the voided election held on November 2020 which was the trigger for the military coup d’état some three months later.

Burmese junta has been using aerial warfare to keep the forces of the National Unity Government (NUG) at bay and has lost well over 50% of the country

In recent months, the military regime, bunkered in the country’s isolated capital Nay Pyi Taw, has shifted towards aerial warfare tactics to attack opposition forces as it continues to lose ground throughout the war-torn union of states with some estimates suggesting that the junta now only controls less than 50% of Myanmar’s territory in or around the major urban centres and even here, units of the People’s Defense Armed Forces (PDF) are launching guerilla attacks and are now targeting loyalists and sympathisers of the military and their elite clique, in a campaign of murder.

Military coup in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi held with scores of leading political figures arrested by troops

The all-out war being waged against the illegal junta flies in the face of the long-established tenet of Aung San Suu Kyi who advocates only peaceful resistance to oppression.

Younger generations convinced their families to fight the 2021 coup d’état which has never been accepted by the population except for elite cliques

This approach was rejected just weeks after the February 1st 2021 coup d’état when young people and families in Myanmar found themselves being attacked in a vicious military crackdown using seasoned soldiers of the feared Tatmadaw, the country’s military, which has effectively ruled Myanmar since the 1960s, to wage war on the civilian population.

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Reports of attempts to reach out to Aung San Suu Kyi, who is being held in primitive conditions in a prison compound in the capital, come just weeks after the military junta outlawed the National League for Democracy, the country’s largest political party which swept to a landslide win in the November 2020 General Election, while generating worldwide revulsion with an aerial attack in April in the northeastern state of Sagaing which saw over 100 civilians blown to pieces in an appalling scene of carnage.

The outrage drew calls from UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews, for the international community to take more robust action against the murderous regime which is now at war with the overwhelming majority of its civilian population who has never lent it its approval or legitimacy.

The progress of the People’s Defense Armed Forces (PDF) comes as the standing of the regime, which is not recognised by the United Nations, continues to diminish.

Aung San Suu Kyi gave no response to the overture from the military over the previous two weeks with a deputation led by Home Affairs Minister So Htut

The reports suggest that the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the now outlawed National League for Democracy, the party which won the November 2020 General Election and which is at the heart of the National Unity Government (NUG), involved the junta’s Minister of Home Affairs Lieutenant General So Htut, key negotiator Lieutenant General Yar Pyae and retired military officer Lieutenant General Khin Zaw Oo.

News reports of the meetings said to have been held on May 27th and June 4th come from the Burmese section of Radio Free Asia which is a respected and quite reliable source of news on Burma operated as a non-profit organisation and funded by the US government.

‘We heard that the generals urged her to help the junta in its peacemaking process amid the current political situation and help stop the violence,’ a Radio Free Asia representative disclosed. ‘We’ve heard that she did not respond.’

Initial reports suggest that the democratic leader declined to give a response as the scale of the Burmese civil war is re-assessed by international observers

The reports also suggest that the former State Counsellor of Myanmar has demurred an invitation to get involved in talks with the junta based on helping to bring a stop to the bloody civil war which according to reports supplied to the BBC by a credible monitoring group operating in the country, the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), saw 12,000 lives lost alone in its first year to February 21st 2022.

A second war raging in Myanmar unlike anything seen since World War Two with over 12,000 dead

There are reports of rising casualties since then in a war that veteran observers have described as unlike anything seen in the country since World War Two and the battles between Allied forces and the Japanese military at that time.

These figures are far higher than official figures and indeed many international news reports on Myanmar but this week, the Peace Research Institute of Oslo confirmed the deaths of civilians alone from February 2021 to September 2022 at 6,337 civilians alone who were not engaged in the conflict which is now widespread and amounts to open warfare.

34% of civilian deaths to September 30th 2022 came at the hands of the National Unity Government (NUG) forces according to the Oslo-based institute

It should be noted that 34% of these deaths were caused by the People’s Defense Armed Forces (PDF) and the forces aligned with the National Unity Government (NUG).

The figures claimed by the institute just for this limited period after which the scale and intensity of the civil war has only grown, also suggests that these figures could be higher.

‘This is a larger number than is normally cited in the media, and yet it is only an estimate, based on reported killings gathered from reliable media reports,’ the report of the Oslo-based body said. ‘The actual total is surely higher since many killings have likely gone unreported.’

Aung San Suu Kyi is currently being held after being found guilty in several trials which the National Unity Government (NUG) and international observers dismiss as sham proceedings.

She could be facing up to 33 years imprisonment when finally sentenced.

National Unity Government (NUG) wages a vicious civil war while upholding Aung San Suu Kyi, who advocates a policy of non-violence, as its figurehead

Although the female leader and Nobel Prize laureate is seen as a figurehead of the alternative government which is growing in stature and credibility, she wields no power as it pursues a violent struggle against the illegal regime while forging an unprecedented alliance with ethnic militias and renegade enclaves in the country that have long battled the military regime since the country’s independence as the Union of Burma in 1948 and even since its return to democracy after the historic 2015 General Election.

At the same time, sources within the National Unity Government (NUG) which continues to wage its protracted, nationwide and vicious civil war against the military without quarter, emphasise that any resolution to what they now term a revolution against the oppression of the military will eventually involve the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Kyaw Htwe, a member of the National League for Democracy Central Working Committee explained this recently to the press when he insisted that the current war was provoked by the military who broke its pact with the people by staging the February 2021 coup: ‘In Myanmar’s political world, the role of Aung San Suu Kyi is vital,’ he said. ‘There will never be practical political change without her. Meeting with her and holding discussions is very important.’

War is turning even nastier with a murder campaign reaching into the urban centres and mercilessly targeting the elite supporters of the military regime

Meanwhile, there are increasing reports of the war winding its deadly way into the urban centres of Myanmar and the homes of the military elite with key supporters and allies of the military regime being targeted.

One of these is Lily Naing Kyaw, a well-known singer in Burma who still supports the junta and the army’s grip on power.

She spoke recently to CNN and the Southeast Asia Globe.

She explained matters from her perspective: ‘My family is a military family. So I support the military and accepted the coup. But most people in my neighbourhood support the National League for Democracy and say they want to kill me,’ she confirmed. ‘These people want to destroy the nation.’

On May 28th, gunmen shot dead nationalist and junta supporter Tint Lwin.

Once before, they had tried and failed in 2022 at a tea shop but three weeks ago, at another tea shop in North Dagon City in Yangon, they got their man.

The 67-year-old was the Chairman of the Myanmar National Organisation which has always resolutely stood behind Burma’s armed forces.

He was part of a nationalist Buddhist group called the Patriotic Association of Myanmar (Ma Ba Tha) which vigorously opposed the path and policies of Aung San Suu Kyi.

His funeral was attended by supporters including writer and nationalist lawyer Win Koko Lat and a militia figure, Mr Thu Lat, who is linked with the extremist Pyusawthi militia.

Beijing is recalibrating its position but China’s ongoing support is critical for the declining junta regime in political, economic and military terms

These are some of the fringe groups associated with the Myanmar military’s persecution of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Burma which, to this day, has seen Ms Aung San Suu Kyi herself facing criticism from Western observers for failing to do enough to stop while the national leader instead steered her country towards China.

Beijing is reported to be recalibrating its support for Myanmar’s junta which depends on it now economically, politically and for weapons which are supplied by Russia, Pakistan, China and a network of firms both inside Myanmar and in other Southeast Asian countries including both Thailand and Singapore with weapons assembled from imported parts.

Meanwhile, more intelligence is emerging to suggest that the ranks of Burma’s military on the ground including the Tatmadaw and paramilitary forces are depleting through death and casualties on the battlefield and even more alarming for the generals in Nay Pyi Taw, the desertion of members of the ranks of both the armed forces and the police service.

‘The Myanmar military is, in fact, shrinking from a severe and rapidly growing shortage of personnel,’ explains Ye Myo Hein, who is a visiting scholar at the United States Institute of Peace.

Ranks of the military and police declining rapidly with the recruitment of new blood proving very difficult for unpopular, brutal and doomed services

In his May analysis, he estimated that there have been 13,000 deaths within the ranks since the civil war broke out and 8,000 defections or desertions leading to a loss of 21,000 personnel who are not easily replaced as young people of fighting age in the country are taking flight to join the People’s Defense Armed Forces (PDF).

Observers in Myanmar say that this movement among the young who experienced a taste of democracy and increased prosperity from 2015 to 2021 and are determined not to go back to corrupt authoritarian rule, is driving whole families and communities to continue the fight and indeed a revolution against the regime in Nay Pyi Taw.

A Bangkok-based analyst and acknowledged expert on Burma, Mr Anthony Davis, appraises the army’s ability to field a force of between 100,000 and 120,000 personnel at the moment, a number which may well be falling with not enough recruitment occurring because of the widespread revolt which is strengthening.

People’s Defense Armed Forces (PDF) are getting automatic weapons from both internal and external sources since the end of 2022 to prosecute the war

Part of the reason for the renewed strength has been the ability, since the end of 2022, of the People’s Defense Armed Forces (PDF) to lay hands on automatic weapons and ammunition, from both external and internal sources, a situation which is a terrifying prospect for the military rulers.

This in turn is driving an increasingly hardline stance from the National Unity Government (NUG) which is determined not to be held back as it now senses weakness from the generals.

The leadership has rejected the past policy of non-violence pursued by Aung San Suu Kyi.

‘Regardless of Suu Kyi’s views, we want a revolution that keeps the military out of government,’ a spokesman for the National Unity Government (NUG) said this week.

The iron-fisted rule of General Min Aung Hlaing and his illegal, bloody regime may well be numbered.

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