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11/17/2023 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) — Resistance groups in Myanmar’s western Chin and Rakhine states have increased their attacks against Tatmadaw-held positions in the last week. The Tatmadaw, the armed forces behind the military junta ruling Myanmar today, have waged a brutal, decades-long war against the Burmese people. Today, though, reports suggest that anti-junta militias have gained significant ground in recent months, reducing the area under solid Tatmadaw control to as little as 17%, according to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar. 

An earlier offensive, launched in October in Shan state, has led to the capture of several towns and more than 100 military outposts by the militant groups. The fighting there is ongoing. 

Last week’s strikes against the Tatmadaw appear to have been part of a well-coordinated attack intended to stretch limited Tatmadaw resources and strategically weaken them as they struggle for control around the country. Multiple military posts were reported seized by the militant groups in the early hours of the new fighting. 

Reuters reported that about 5,000 civilians fled across the border to neighboring India in the first day, though about half of that number has since returned to Myanmar, according to Indian officials speaking with AP News.  

On Wednesday, reports emerged that the Tatmadaw had bombed a school southern Chin state, killing eight children and three adults. 

Myanmar is a patchwork mosaic of ethnic and religious groups. Though a strong majority of the population is ethnic Burman, and an even greater percentage is Buddhist, the communities that make up the rest are well-established, well-organized, and for the most part predate the formation of the modern state by centuries. 

In many cases, Myanmar’s ethnic minorities have taken on a distinct religious identity as well. About 20-30% of ethnic Karen are Christians, while other groups—such as the Chin—are over 90% Christian. This overlap of ethnic and religious identity has created a volatile situation for believers. 

The Tatmadaw has a long history of violence against the people of Myanmar, including against ethnic and religious minorities like the Muslim-majority Rohingya and Christian-majority Chin. Soon after the 2021 coup, International Christian Concern (ICC) published a report detailing several of these minority groups and proposing actions that the international community can take to push back against the Tatmadaw. 

In October, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom launched new sanctions against the military junta, the latest in a years-long effort to exert pressure on the repressive regime. The sanctions were on the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, a main source of funding for the junta. Though the United States has sanctions various leaders connected with the enterprise previously, this is the first direct sanction of the organization. 

“The oil and gas industry is the biggest source of foreign-currency revenue to Myanmar’s murderous junta,” said the Guardian in its analysis of the recent sanctions, “bringing in $1.72bn in the six months to 31 March 2022 alone.” 

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