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Myanmar Leader Loses Support Amid Military Losses

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Friends Turned Foes

Myanmar military junta is teetering as its armed forces suffer a series of humiliating defeats, sparking rare dissent from even the regime’s staunchest allies.

For two years, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has clung ruthlessly to power after his coup.
But with the army crumbling on multiple fronts, his isolation grows while calls rise for the beleaguered leader to step aside.

A precipitous downfall for Min Aung Hlaing seemed unthinkable in 2021 when he seized control with brazen impunity.

Yet today his forces are routed weekly by insurgents, as morale and discipline collapse within the once-feared ranks.

The regime’s supporters are turning, from radical monks to battle-weary troops, their loyalty brittle and conditional.

Min Aung Hlaing’s dream of restoring order through brutality has given way to chaos, driving allies into the opposition’s swelling ranks. The stage is set for his regime’s denouement.

Myanmar Ruler Under Fire

Calls are growing from within Myanmar for the country’s military ruler, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to step down after a series of disastrous battlefield defeats suffered by the army he commands.

The criticism comes not just from opponents of the February 2021 coup that ultimately brought him to power in the first place, but also former staunch supporters, including radical nationalist Buddhist monks.

Min Aung Hlaing’s position as head of both the armed forces and the military junta ruling Myanmar is looking increasingly shaky after morale among soldiers plummeted due to humiliating losses to ethnic insurgent groups in recent months.

Now former allies are questioning Min Aung Hlaing’s competence as a military leader and saying he should hand power to his deputy, General Soe Win.

While Soe Win has not shown any signs of being ready to take over, the cracks emerging in the junta’s support base underscore the precarious position Min Aung Hlaing finds himself in.

If major towns fall to the insurgents, it could possibly lead to a complete collapse in military morale and the potential downfall of the current regime.

Min Aung Hlaing led the February 1, 2021 coup that ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

The military alleged massive voter fraud in the November 2020 general election, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide. However, international observers like to claim that the election might have been largely free and fair.

The coup prompted outrage among much of Myanmar’s population, sparking huge street protests demanding accountability. And The military responded with a brutal crackdown.
The coup also re-ignited conflicts with ethnic armed groups in Myanmar’s border regions.

New civilian militias calling themselves People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) emerged to fight back against the junta alongside ethnic insurgents. The military found itself mired in a bloody civil war on multiple fronts.

While a portion of Myanmar’s population turned against him, Min Aung Hlaing enjoyed backing from radical nationalist Buddhist monks.

They shared the military’s belief that Buddhism and Burmese culture need safeguarding from outside influences.

Groups like Ma Ba Tha propagated anti-Muslim sentiment and regarded the coup as necessary to defend Buddhism from perceived threats.

Monks like Wirathu, jailed in 2020 for hate speech, were released and honoured by the junta.

Min Aung Hlaing presented himself as a champion of Buddhism through lavish temple donations and ceremonies.

The most hardcore monks even helped the military form Pyusawhti militia groups to fight the PDFs. But these monks have only mobilised small groups of recruits in their local strongholds through threats and coercion.

The allegedly poorly trained militias have so far failed to counter the widespread resistance forces.

After over a year in which neither side made much headway in the war, the tide turned decisively against the Myanmar military in late 2022.

An alliance of three major ethnic armed groups known as the Brotherhood Alliance launched a major offensive in northern Shan State in October.

Myanmar Ruler’s Defeats Spark Outrage

The attacks back in October 2022 were kind of a turning point for the Myanmar military rule as it was carried out by the Brotherhood Alliance, composed of the Kokang, Ta’ang and Arakan ethnic armies. Overrunning dozens of army outposts near the Chinese border, the insurgents captured towns, trade routes and border crossings in a dramatic offensive.

Hundreds of troops have been killed, including a top regional commander, marking the highest-ranking combat death since the coup.

The government responded fiercely with airstrikes but failed to recover lost territory, revealing the limits of its conventional forces against determined guerilla factions.

After years of bloody stalemate, the military is suddenly losing on multiple fronts simultaneously. Its conventional forces are struggling against nimble guerilla opponents fighting with rising confidence and coordination.

Two years battling swelling resistance, and the armed forces are demoralised and losing ground against alliances of ethnic armies and pro-democracy People’s Defense Forces.

Over the next three months, the insurgents routed the Myanmar army, capturing thousands of soldiers and seizing control of huge swathes of territory along the Chinese border.

Videos emerged showing defeated troops looking relieved to surrender. Six generals who surrendered were later sentenced to death in an attempt to deter further capitulation.

In early 2023, similar scenes played out in western Rakhine State as the Arakan Army overran numerous army bases near the Bangladesh border.

Outgunned troops retreated in disarray, with many again choosing to flee or give up. The military was reduced to relying on airstrikes and supply helicopters to defend besieged outposts.

These defeats are unprecedented in the military’s 75-year campaign against ethnic minorities.

Morale and recruitment have plummeted as the once all-powerful institution finds itself losing on multiple fronts simultaneously.

The dire situation on the battlefield is now causing even former stalwart backers of the coup to question Min Aung Hlaing’s competence.

At a recent rally, nationalist monk Pauk Ko Taw openly called for the Myanmar military ruler to step aside in favor of his deputy Soe Win, saying the army is not coping under Min Aung Hlaing’s leadership.

Other bloggers who initially supported the coup have also posted criticism of Min Aung Hlaing online, blaming him for historic military humiliations.

While Soe Win appears unhappy with the army’s performance, he has not indicated any intent whatsoever to overthrow his superior.

Moreover, the Myanmar armed forces are struggling with a low spirit and recruitment woes amid the ongoing defeats. If major towns like Lashio or Loikaw fall to the resistance, it could irreparably damage any hope left and lead to the regime’s ultimate collapse.

The General is Not Deterred

But Min Aung Hlaing continues behaving as a monarch rather than a military leader, indicating his isolation from realities on the ground.

While the emergence of dissenting voices from former loyalists is worrying for Min Aung Hlaing, a coup by Soe Win still appears unlikely for now.

The military ruler has proven adept at sidelining potential rivals within the armed forces before they become real threats.

Over two years after the coup, Min Aung Hlaing presides over a nation plagued by conflict and economic woes. The economy is paralyzed, the currency has crashed, foreign investment has dried up, and the healthcare and education systems are in disarray.

The military also stands accused of war crimes and atrocities during its crackdown on opposition. Yet the generals cling to power, relying on fear and violence to try subduing the widespread resistance.

But the recent battlefield losses have shaken both military morale and faith in the coup leadership. While deposing Min Aung Hlaing currently seems improbable, further defeats could change that equation.

The ethnic armed groups are closer than ever to choking off the army’s supply lines and support.

Myanmar approaches a near future that likely holds continued unrest and political instability.
Min Aung Hlaing’s position is precarious as he loses allies and struggles to counter increasingly bold resistance forces.

While dissent is still muted within military ranks, battlefield reversals could spark an internal reckoning and ultimately the unravelling of his regime.

For now, Myanmar’s long-suffering population continues bearing devastating conflict and hardship unleashed by the coup, hoping the recent military setbacks might hasten the end of junta rule. With Min Aung Hlaing’s support fracturing, that outcome may slowly be coming into view. But the road ahead promises to remain bloody and uncertain.

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