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Military Defeats of Junta reveal propaganda efforts designed to promote ethnic conflict to mask diminishing power

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The military junta, which seized power from the civilian government, has been facing many losses since the armed resistance began, and is now in a low state of affairs.

The military junta is increasingly relying on gratuitous acts of violence, conducting mass arrests with spurious charges laid under their Anti-Terrorism Act. They are now also promoting hate speech with hopes of stirring conflicts between the ethnic armed forces or between ethnic groups.

The Three Alliance Force, Rakhine Army (ULA/AA), Kokang Army (MNDAA) and Taang Army (TNLA) launched a significant and coordinated attack on October 27, now known as Operation 1027 .

During the operation, most cities in North Shan were captured by the three allies forces, and the military junta was forced to cede many of their military bases and strategic bases in the hills.

Laukkai township on the Chinese border, where the military junta’s regional command headquarters is located, surrendered without resistance.

The Global Fire Power Group, which studies the military strength of various countries in the world, ranked the military junta’s strength as 35th amongst all countries compared on their index.

In this context, the military junta’s defeat in North Shan, is seen as a historic event.

The junta’s propaganda arm, known as the Telegram, (a social media channel) depicts the loss, as a territorial forfeiture for the Shan people, who are the primary inhabitants of the town.

On the Telegram account of a Kyaw Swar, which has over 100,000 subscribers, he wrote, “There are 330 townships in Myanmar. About 30 cities were captured by the insurgents. That’s all there is. Will the Shan accept adding the Yaw area to Chin State as Palaung State, and will Jonal be subordinated to Chin State? The signs of the country’s disintegration are slowly starting to appear.”

A political analyst described this portrayal of events as propaganda, attempting to trigger conflict between the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and the TNLA.

There are already tensions between the groups. For example, earlier in January of this year, the SSPP held a meeting of ward and village Administrators from Namhkam township, and asked them to not recruit new soldiers. Subsequently, the SSPP sent a letter on January 21st, requesting the TNLA to cease recruitment activities and to refrain from seeking military and administrative funds in Namhkam township.

The letter pointed out that if TNLA recruitment efforts continue, unwanted problems may arise between their future allies.

Lway Chi Sa Ngarr of the Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO) said that the lobby groups supporting the military dictatorship will try to divide ethnic groups and spread hatred.

“When Shan and Ta’ang lived together as brothers and sisters, there will be some discomfort between us, and lobby groups will take advantage of that, and there will be more interventions, so we need to pay special attention to this,” she said.

She added that there is a need to discuss and resolve territorial disputes between allies, and avoid hate speech.

On the TikTok account of Kyaw Soe Oo, the founder of People Media, which distributes military junta statements about the Namhkam issue, wrote, “The Shan armed group SSPP/SSA has been scorned by the TNLA. The SSPP is fearful of the TNLA, even as the Shan forces hesitate to engage each other. All the honor that the Shan ethnics have upheld will be lost under the SSPP/SSA.”

Kyaw Soe Oo, also delivered a hate speech on the night of January 23rd.

The military junta routinely publishes hate speech and propaganda in their state-run newspapers, social media platforms such as Telegram channels, Tik Tok, movies, and via pamphlets. Propaganda messages are also present at traveling medical treatment camps, military council meetings, community cleaning activities, even flood relief activities.

U Myo Kyaw, spokesperson of the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), a group of ethnic political parties, said that since Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the country’s rulers have relied on a governance system that creates conflict between ethnic groups.

“In class, we learned about the British strategy of ‘divide and rule,’ and we discussed it extensively. We know that after independence, the junta, or in other words, successive governments, have continued to practice divide and rule strategies amongst ethnic groups,” he said.

Since the February 1st, 2021 coup d’état, the military junta has lost r military bases and camps, and numerous soldiers and even battalions, and divisions have surrendered. The result is the junta is diminishing in its power, and is now employing a strategy to try and divide revolutionary forces and ethnic groups.

The junta’s propaganda message is bleak and overly dramatic, suggesting that If the military is defeated Myanmar will disappear from the world map. Lawlessness will prevail, and the country will be divided into pieces.

Political analyst U Than Soe Naing, argues that the junta’s propaganda message will not alter the people’s objective of overthrowing the military dictatorship.

“In the MNDAA region, Myanmar pagodas are being desecrated, vandalized, and propaganda is being spread in deceitful ways. However, since these tactics are well understood, they will not incite the religious opposition as expected. I believe that the military junta’s nefarious tactics will not alter the course of the spring revolution war or the public’s stance toward it,” he said.

In June 2022, the three alliance members, ULA/AA, became active in Rakhine State, where ethnic and religious conflicts had taken place. AA issued a warning advising people to be cautious and avoid falling into the enemy’s divide and rule trap.

The military junta continues to try and promote ethnic and religious conflicts as they have done in previous generations, and the future will depend on how the ethnic armed organizations and revolutionary forces respond.

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