War in Myanmar: On the junta and restoring democracy

The junta must hold talks with the rebels and relinquish power

Myanmar has faced violence by ethnic minorities for decades. But in the past, the main political contradiction in Burmese society was the peaceful struggle by the pro-democracy movement, led by Ms. Suu Kyi. This time, the pro-democracy movement gave up the Suu Kyian model of peaceful resistance, formed an underground government, established a militia wing and joined hands with the ethnic rebels — an outcome the coup regime did not anticipate. Over two years, new political realities have emerged. The rebels have made substantial territorial gains and kept multiple fronts open, maintaining operational pressure points on the junta. The generals are also facing regional isolation, especially in ASEAN. The new rebel offensive and territorial losses point to the mounting woes of Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s regime. The junta does not have any easy options. A military solution looks improbable. The junta has not come forward for talks; but the rebels, led by a diverse new generation of leaders, have asked the generals to retreat from politics and then hold talks to find peace. They demand a federal democratic system with greater autonomy for ethnic minority regions. If the violence continues, especially in areas bordering India and China, it will have regional repercussions. Major regional players, along with ASEAN, should play a more proactive role to achieve a ceasefire in Myanmar, setting the stage for meaningful dialogue that is aimed at restoring democracy and freedoms.