For a nation that is at war with itself, Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing’s televised New Year address was irritatingly short, about five minutes.
There was no mention that the military had lost about a dozen towns to the resistance forces in over two months. He blamed rebels for the mess Myanmar has been in since he seized power in February 2021, promised to turn around an economy that’s in doldrums and cautioned against regionalism without naming ethnic groups that have given the military a torrid time.
There was also an appeal to cooperate with a population census slated for later this year, which the General says is needed for the general election. The junta had originally announced that the election would take place a year after its takeover; subsequently the date was deferred to August 2023. Now, nobody knows when it will take place.
Just days after the General’s address, rebels took control of Laukkai, the capital of Kokang self-administered zone in Shan state. Six brigadier generals were among 2400 soldiers from the regional military command who gave in, as reported by The Irrawaddy. The surrendered generals are now in military custody.
Operation 1027 (named after the day it was formed, on October 27 last year) of the Brotherhood Alliance, launched by three ethnic armed groups—the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA)—has gone into an overdrive, capturing a dozen towns and over 400 junta outposts.
With the military suffering unprecedented reverses, questions are now being asked about Min Aung Hlain’s leadership style and administrative capabilities. And there are talks of a possible replacement.
“Senior general (former dictator) Than Shwe is looking for a change in leadership of the State Administration Council (SAC) where he wants to bring in vice-chairman General Soe Win as the successor to Min Aung Hlaing. Efforts are underway to effect a smooth change so there is no disturbance in the system of governance,” an Indian analyst who follows Myanmar closely told StratNews Global.
The purge in the military has been gradual. First, the air force chief was replaced, then the Navy chief shifted and in the past month or so three lieutenant generals considered close to Min Aung Hlaing have been removed. About 3000-4000 military men have so far surrendered and efforts seem to be afoot to stem the rot.
“The coup has failed to achieve its results. Min Aung Hlaing has gone past the timeline set to hold elections. He acted tough against the protesters and one thing led to the other. He probably did not understand that unlike in the past the predominantly Bamar-dominated areas are also now severely under attack from the opposition forces. Previously, most of the anti-government opposition was in ethnic states which border Bangladesh, China, India and Laos,” the analyst said.
People are fed up with seeing the military taking on civilian responsibilities for which they have not delivered results, so the anger is not only against the junta leadership but also against a large section of the military, he added.
The surrender of hundreds of Myanmarese soldiers in India shows there’s a breakdown in the Tatmadaw’s command and control. And Min Aung Hlaing does not seem to be the man in control he was three years ago.