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Myanmar - Civil War

Rebel groups in Myanmar


Myanmar (aka Burma) has been in a state of constant civil war since independence in 1948. Powerful elements within the Burman (or Bamar) ethnic group, who constitute about 60% of the population and 40% of the land mass, have felt that they should dominate the country’s social, economic, and political realms. However, Myanmar is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world with key non-Burman ethnic groups demanding equality with the Burmans in the three public realms, specifically the protection of ethnic culture, language, and religion, the devolution of tangible executive, legislative, and judicial power to the ethnic states within a true federal union, and a democratic form of government. With their demands unmet, the ethnic groups turned to armed insurgency. Despite many political and military alliances among them, they have been unable to use these alliances to best advantage because of cultural differences and diverse agendas.

The civil war and the perceived threat of secession by ethnic states from Myanmar led in 1962 to a military coup. Since then, the military has dominated the affairs of the country seeing itself as the sole force capable of holding the country together. The military’s dictum is “one country – one army.”

The major non-Burman ethnic groups are the Arakanese, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Karenni, Karen, and Mon, all of which have their own states in which they are the dominant ethnic group. All these states have ethnic insurgent activities of varying intensities against the Myanmar military (aka Tatmadaw). The Tatmadaw has been employing a “Four Cuts” counterinsurgency strategy which attempts to deny the ethnic insurgents access to food, funding, information, and recruits. Also the Myanmar regime policies have led to the impoverishment of and human rights abuses toward the ethnic peoples leading hundreds of thousands of them to seek safety in adjacent countries – Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh, through resettlement in other countries, and as internally displaced persons in the jungle inside Myanmar.

The following are the current most active ethnic armed groups fighting against the Myanmar regime for ethnic rights, federalism, and democracy and to stop human rights abuses against their respective ethnic groups:
Arakan (aka Rahkine) State: Arakan Liberation Army (ALA) and the Arakan Army (AA).
Chin State: Chin National Army (CNA).
Kachin State: Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
Shan State: Kachin Independence Army (KIA), United Wa State Army (UWSA), National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA Mongla), Shan State Army - South (SSA - S), Shan State Army - North (SSA - N), Wa National Army (WNA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Lahu Democratic Front (LDF), Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), and the Pa’O Peoples Liberation Army (PPLA).
Karenni (aka Kayah) State: Karenni Army (KnA) and the Kayan New Land Party (KNLP).
Karen (aka Kayin) State: Karen National Defense Organization/Karen National Liberation Army (KNDO/KNLA) and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
Mon State: Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA).

Additionally in Arakan State, the Rohingya National Army (RNA), is fighting against the regime for religious rights and the recognition of the Rohingya people as an ethnic group with special geographic areas set aside in Arakan State for them to institute Islamic laws and practice their culture as Muslims. These aspirations are a source of conflict between them and the Arakan Buddhists who consider the Rohingya as migrant Bengali Muslims with no legitimate claim to ethnicity in Myanmar.

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HIIK Conflict Barometer 2008: 3
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