Parliamentary elections were held in Myanmar in November last year, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, led by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, won 85% of the parliamentary seats. Rival parties called for military intervention to ensure the freedom of the election. The army practically staged a coup. The Myanmar army declared a state of emergency in the country with the arrest of the president, and several senior party officials and leaders, and took over the administration and control of the government. (Map quoted from Yahoo’s image)


Recently, many have warned about the danger of civil war in Myanmar.  The UN General Assembly called for an end to arms shipments to the country and asked the Myanmar army to respect the results of the November elections and release political prisoners. The assembly passed a resolution with the support of 119 countries.


On the one hand, 36 countries, including China and Russia, abstained from voting on the resolution. Disagreements among members of the UN Security Council have also prevented a serious decision on Myanmar. The trip of the military leader of Myanmar to abroad and the rejection of a UN resolution Myanmar's arms embargo come as some countries see the crisis as Myanmar's internal affair. 


On the one hand, there is a geopolitical conflict over the country. Moscow and China are also trying to expand their influence in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. If the country's military is backed by major powers such as China and Russia, it will increase internal tensions. Conversely, the West and its allies may have a combination of ‘pressure’ and ‘persuasion’, but it is unclear how much foreign influence will reduce the risk of civil war.


The ASEAN is also at loggerheads over finding a way out of the crisis between Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam (almost a supporter of an elected civilian government) and Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.


On the other hand, some elected representatives and representatives of various ethnic minority groups formed the National Unity Government (NUG). The shadow government seeks international recognition and the consolidation of pro-democracy forces. In addition, the formation of an armed faction called the People's Defense Forces (PDF) to counter the military regime has increased tensions.


However, the constant threat of military strikes, arrests, torture and killings has led relatives and citizens to take up arms to resist the military. Some have offered to cooperate and assist anti-military forces. In contrast, the powerful army is doing its best to strengthen its power. Therefore, if ethnic insurgent groups unite to fight the army, there is no way to solve the crisis. Incitement to anti-religious sentiment and the formation of defense groups by ethnic groups could lead to a full-blown civil war.


Since the independence of Myanmar (Burma) from Britain, the country has always witnessed conflicts and civil wars. Myanmar, with more than a hundred different ethnic groups and full of deep religious and ethnic divisions (many of which do not endorse the coup), may be on the path to secession, ethnic and religious strife, and civil war.


Therefore, the risk of a civil war in Myanmar, the conflict between the military government and the government of national unity and allies can lead to an influx of refugees, human trafficking and so on. So far, the conflicts have displaced more than 100,000 people, and could lead to an influx of refugees into its neighbors.


Many believe the country is on the brink of a new civil war. This is while the government of national unity has not yet received international support. About 800 people have been killed so far. Many groups still want independence, increased autonomy or federalization of the country.


What is clear is that Myanmar is on a tortuous path to Peace and stability, the possibility of severe and crippling sanctions, etc. can put a lot of pressure on the military. Structural inequality, widespread poverty, and severe recession, among other internal and external factors, are likely to influence a civil war  .


 Farzad Ramezani Bonesh

Senior Researcher and Analyst of International Affairs