Myanmar’s national unity government tightens its control

Change is in the wind as opposition forces in Myanmar step up the fight against the illegal military junta that seized power in a February 2021 coup.

A useful assessment of the changes is provided in a recently released report titled “Effective Oversight in Myanmar” by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar or SAC-M.

A key finding of the report released this month is that the National Unity Government (NUG) has extended its control over Myanmar territory and the military junta is retreating and losing ground.

The report by SAC-M, a group of former UN experts, claims that the junta effectively controls only 17% of the country, while the NUG and its allies control 52%. The remaining territory is a contested space and often the target of indiscriminate shelling of civilian communities and arson which has so far destroyed around 28,000 homes.

This shift in favor of the NUG and resistance forces is crucial to understand but no reason to pop champagne corks just yet. The junta is clearly losing ground. But it is up to the NUG to effectively fill the void.

The country has resisted becoming a failed state due to growing NUG capacity and resistance to administer government functions and deliver essential services to millions of people during an extreme crisis, the report said. Resistance organizations in Myanmar have developed a range of governance systems in areas under their control. These include parallel state administrations and social service agencies of decades-old Ethnic Revolutionary Organizations (EROs), as well as emerging initiatives run by Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) workers, Community Volunteers and People’s Defense Forces (PDF). Many of the new initiatives receive support and oversight from the NUG or advisory councils made up of political parties, OREs and other political actors. All of these institutions are more critical than ever to fill the void left by the junta-induced collapse of the central state and are proving their resilience and effectiveness in the crisis.

Calls are growing internationally to recognize the NUG and the current Myanmar representative to the United Nations as the true representatives of the people of Myanmar.

The NUG has the greatest claim to effective control of the country. It is at the center of a democratic revolution shaped by organizations opposed to Myanmar’s military junta. These organizations are the de facto authorities over a larger part of Myanmar’s territory and for a larger part of the population than the junta and administer an increasing range of government functions.

The NUG and its resistance forces provide an all-out opportunity to shake off the brutal military control of Myanmar once and for all. The democratic revolution, solidified around a shared vision of federal democracy, has a viable path to ending decades of military oppression. The massive uprising of the people of Myanmar against a return to autocratic military rule continues to grow in intensity and is not going to end anytime soon.

Obviously, the military junta is increasingly desperate. It is losing ground and losing the ability to perform government functions in large swaths of the country. The army’s strategy for gaining control is focused on the perpetration of mass atrocities and humanitarian suffering among the civilian population.

As the junta loses control at an increasing rate, the NUG and its democratic revolution as both armed and non-violent resistance to the junta continue to build. International support is needed to place the country more decisively on the path to peace, stability and civilian rule. Denying recognition to the junta and granting it instead to the NUG is clearly a priority.