News aggregator for armed conflict worldwide

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.

    Comment on this overview
Take Action (learn about relevant NGOs)


HIIK Conflict Barometer 2008: 3
Economist Intelligence Unit Sovereign Ratings: Rating CC

Other Resources:

News up to: Shan Herald Agency for News: Chinese government meets with Wa and Mongla Army after DASSK visits China 08/24 Kachin News Group: Helicopters used against KIA 08/24 The Irrawaddy: Lower House approves annulment of emergency provisions act – Htun Htun 08/24 Democratic Voice of Burma: Shan groups warn Salween dam could fuel conflict – Libby Hogan 08/24 Karen Information Center: Ethnic armed groups not recognized by Thein Sein’s government announce their readiness to join the Panglong Conference 08/24 Narinjara: Arakan Patriot Party not joining peace conference if non-inclusive 08/24 Kofi Annan to Lead Commission on Myanmar's Rakhine State 08/24 Xinhua: Myanmar’s former ruling party pledges party reform 08/23 Myanmar Times: UN Secretary General to attend Panglong Conference 08/23 Chin state Municipal election will hold in the end of September 08/23 Myanmar: UN Chief to Attend Ethnic Peace Talks 08/23 Myanmar says UN chief to attend ethnic peace talks 08/23 Kokang leader throws weight behind Panglong Conference 08/23 Clash between Indian army and NSCN-K in Myanmar denied 08/22 Myanmar Times: Kayah political parties boycott Panglong Conference – Thu Thu Aung 08/22 Suu Kyi shows she’s a dab hand at diplomacy with Beijing visit 08/21 China’s president pledges to support Myanmar peace talks 08/20 Chinese president pledges to support pending Myanmar peace process 08/20 Nagaland: Army engage in encounter with suspected NSCN-K militants along Indo-Myanmar border 08/20 AA, MNDAA and TNLA prepared to join Union Peace Conference 08/19 'Surgical strike' inside Myanmar by Army? 08/19 Myanmar's Suu Kyi says China to support peace talks 08/19 Myanmar`s Suu Kyi says China to support peace talks 08/19 Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi assures China of solution to stalled dam 08/19 Suu Kyi seeks 'right balance' in Myanmar's ties with China and the West 08/19 Democratic Voice of Burma: Suu Kyi seeks win-win deal on China-backed dam 08/19 Frontier Myanmar: Daw Suu says China to support peace talks 08/19 The Irrawaddy: Government peace negotiator-‘We cannot talk recklessly about building peace’ – Nyein Nyein 08/19 Gun battle between Army, NSCN(K) in Nagaland 08/19 Myanmar Times: State-level peace, stability body planned for Rakhine – Nyan Lynn Aung 08/19 The Irrawaddy: Will a Chinese charm offensive bring rapprochement with Burma? – Sai Wansai 08/18 Suu Kyi expected to meet Chinese premier on second day of official visit to Beijing 08/18 Myanmar leader Suu Kyi heading to China 08/18 The Irrawaddy: Three armed groups ‘ready to join’ peace conference – Lawi Weng & Nyein Nyein 08/18 Myanmar Times: Non-signatories granted eight seats on Panglong committee – Pyae Thet Phyo & Lun Min Mang 08/18 Mizzima: Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Beijing: Recalibrating Myanmar’s China Policy – Yun Sun 08/18 Political framework meeting went well, say attendees 08/17 What to watch out for during Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s first official visit to China 08/17 Suu Kyi to discuss frozen dam project on landmark China trip 08/17 America Has Welcomed Close To 30,000 Muslim Refugees This Fiscal Year 08/17 Suu Kyi to discuss frozen dam project in China 08/17 Nikkei Asian Review: Suu Kyi puts pragmatism first in China diplomacy – Nehginpao Kipgen 08/16 Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi heads to China with dam project clouding ties 08/16 Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi returns to China 08/16 Frontier Myanmar: No debate, decisions at Panglong conference – Nyan Hlaing Lynn 08/16 The Irrawaddy: UPDJC agrees to all-inclusion at Union Peace Conference – Htet Naing Zaw 08/16 Diplomatic test as Myanmar’s Suu Kyi heads to China with suspended mega-dam project clouding ties 08/16 The Irrawaddy: Parliament rejects USDP lawmaker’s proposal to challenge US sanctions – Kyaw Hsu Mon 08/16 The Irrawaddy: Schools closed and civilians displaced as fighting between Burma Army and KIA intensifies – Lawi Weng 08/16 Kachin News Group: Civilians missing from conflict zone 08/16 Mizzima: Myanmar- a new game changer in ASEAN-China ties – Kavi Chongkittavorn 08/16 Myanmar Times: Pre-Panglong Mon meet-up aims to fortify ethnic solidarity – Thu Thu Aung 08/16 Frontier Myanmar: Bitter harvest as trouble brews in Shan State – Ann Wang 08/16 Xinhua: Myanmar state counselor calls for consensus in seeking peace 08/15 Myanmar Times: Panglong billed as mere ‘opening ceremony’ for peace process restart – Lun Min Mang 08/15 The Irrawaddy: Norway’s Outgoing Ambassador to Burma-‘Countries evolve in stages’ – Nyein Nyein 08/14 Nippon Foundation cancels plans to build further 100 homes 08/13 Myanmar Times: Government, armed groups urged to swallow bitter pill – Nick Baker 08/12 Myanmar Times: Rakhine party pledges to take up opposition mantle – Pyae Thet Phyo 08/12 The Irrawaddy: Who is the head of the country? – Lawi Weng 08/12 The Irrawaddy: Karen National Union chairman urges military readiness on Karen Martyrs’ Day – Saw Yan Naing 08/12 Myanmar Times: Powerful pair of armed groups confirm Panglong attendance, three still unsure – Lun Min Mang 08/12 Soldiers admit to killing unarmed civilians in Shan State 08/12 Democratic Voice of Burma: Burmese army officer denies giving order to kill 08/12 Democratic Voice of Burma: US ‘encouraged’ by NLD efforts in Arakan – Feliz Solomon 08/12 The Diplomat: The key to jumpstarting Myanmar’s economy- Electricity – Peter Loftus 08/11 Myanmar soldiers admit at court martial to killing villagers: witnesses 08/11 MNDAA, AA, and TNLA refuse to lay down arms 08/11 Fighting near Laiza 08/11 Radio Free Asia: Three ethnic armies will not disarm to attend Myanmar peace conference 08/11 Democratic Voice of Burma: 700 delegates invited to Panglong peace talks – Nay Phyo Win 08/11 Myanmar Times: Ethnic groups call for more time before Panglong amid deadlock – Lun Min Mang 08/11 7 Myanmar soldiers on trial admit to killing villagers: Witnesses 08/11 The Irrawaddy: The United Wa State Army and the peace process – Yun Sun 08/10 Govt meets with excluded armed groups 08/10 Kachin News Group: Fighting near Laiza 08/10 Myanmar Times: KIA admits to ambushing police convoy en route to Hpakant – Ye Mon 08/10 The Irrawaddy: Burma Army soldiers confess at court martial to killing civilians – Lawi Weng 08/10 Myanmar Times: Soldier discharged after Tatmadaw court rules guilty in death of civilian – Lun Min Mang 08/10 Democratic Voice of Burma: KIA, Burmese army clash near Hpakant – Nang Mya Nadi 08/09 The Irrawaddy: Autopsies conducted on civilians allegedly killed by Burma Army – Nang Seng Nom 08/09 Myanmar’s Suu Kyi sets date for crunch peace talks 08/09 The Irrawaddy: Ethnic armed group leaders discuss security sector reform – Saw Yan Naing 08/09 NCA groups discuss Union Army 08/08 Frontier Myanmar: Tatmadaw softens stand towards three armed groups 08/08 Democratic Voice of Burma: Gold miners flee clashes in Kachin State – Shwe Aung 08/08 Myanmar Times: Government to meet Kokang allies in Mongla today – Thu Thu Aung 08/08 Myanmar Times: Paletwa territorial dispute reignited after Panglong summit – Thu Thu Aung 08/08 Myanmar rebels can keep arms 08/07 KHRG report raises concerns over abuse of women 08/06 New Fighting In Kachin State 08/05 Myanmar military relaxes stance on rebels barred from peace talks 08/04 Myanmar must free political activist - ERI 08/04 Mining operation exacerbates civilian abuse in Nam Ma, says SHRF 08/04 Commission to meet with groups excluded from NCA 08/03 Kachin's civilians: From violence to hopelessness 08/03 Myanmar Times: Youth ethnic alliance emerges after summit – Thu Thu Aung & Fiona MacGregor 08/03 The Irrawaddy: China’s more proactive policy could hold the key to peace in Burma – Lawi Weng 08/03 Thai authorities urged to provide legal status to 69 abandoned Myanmar children 07/31 Amid war, Kachin rebels expand education system for IDPs 07/30