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Myanmar: How much longer can the junta stay in power?

Myanmar has been in chaos ever since General Min Aung Hlaing and his military forces overthrew the democratically elected government on February 1, 2021.

The coup sparked an armed conflict between the civilian-led National Unity Government, people's defense forces and ethnic armed groups.

On the eve of the coup anniversary, the junta extended by six months the state of emergency it declared on February 1, 2021.

Three years after seizing control, Myanmar's junta is still struggling to control the country.

How has the coup changed Myanmar?

Over 4,400 people have been killed, and over 25,000 people arrested since the military seized power, according to rights groups.

The resultant crisis has also seen Myanmar's economy heavily decline and is now 10% lower than it was in 2019, according to a reportby the World Bank.

Although life in urban areas appears to be somewhat normal, the rest of Myanmar is in disorder, according to Aung Thu Nyein, a political analyst from Myanmar.

"It's so bad in the countryside, we don't have proper electricity and agricultural production is also down," Aung told DW.

"Because of instability and difficult to predict what will happen next, a lot of businesses are stopping their activities," he added.

The United Nations said the number of displaced people in Myanmar since the coup has exceeded two million. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Thursday for an end to violence in Myanmar and a return to democracy.

Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for the restoration of civilian rule, accountability of the military, and the release of political prisoners.

"Amid all the crises around the world, it is important no-one is forgotten. The people of Myanmar have been suffering for too long," he said in an online statement.

Is a peaceful solution possible?

Earlier this week, the military government extended Myanmar's state of emergency again by another six months, a regular occurrence since the coup.

But not enough has been done, either politically or diplomatically to stop the war, said Sai Latt, a political analyst covering Myanmar's revolutionary movements and region relations.

Diplomatic efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to resolve the conflict have proved ineffective, with little progress being made since the 10-member bloc agreed on a five-point peace plan — which Myanmar signed up to but has failed to implement.

Sai told DW that Min Aung Hlaing has no will for any political solution.

"He urged political parties to form people's militia for community security and defense instead of asking them to help find political solutions — an indication that a peaceful political solution is not on his agenda," said Sai.

"Resistance groups are committed to continue the fighting until SAC is removed, as a result, the conflict will continue in 2024 and beyond," added Sai, referring to the Myanmar military government, which calls itself the State Administration Council (SAC).

The SAC has often resorted to using devastating air strikes and scorch earth tactics to pummel resistance groups.

Opposition forces making gains

But the tide has turned somewhat in recent months.

Myanmar's opposition forces have made significant inroads, capturing territory in the country's northern Shan state in a three-pronged united brotherhood alliance, leaving the junta reeling.

The sweeping "Operation 1027" offensive over the span of three months saw dozens of townships and hundreds of junta-held military bases captured.

Anthony Davis, a Myanmar security expert, said the Shan state offensive hit the junta hard.

"The junta has neither the manpower reserves nor organizational capacity to mount major counter-offensives anywhere in Myanmar."

The ethnic group alliance captured Laukkai, the capital of the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, which runs along the Myanmar-China border.

This caught the attention of China because of the potential for trade disruptions and an influx of refugees, prompting Beijing to try again to be a mediator, where twice before it had failed.

Delayed elections

Beijing's Foreign Ministry said an immediate ceasefire between alliance and junta representatives had been agreed with all parties after talks were held in China.

But only days later, reports of junta forces firing on the alliance saw the ethnic groups retaliate.

"The ceasefire in Shan State has already been broken by both sides in multiple locations. If and when the Brotherhood alliance decide it's in their interest to go back on the offensive this so-called ceasefire is unlikely to deter them," Davis said.

The offensive has spread to other Myanmar regions, with the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group, now controlling almost all the northern Rakhine state.

"[In the] coming months are likely to see a concerted campaign by the Arakan Army aimed at wresting control over Rakine state from the SAC regime," Davis added.

Aung Thu Nyein said the losses have been "humiliating" for the military and claims there's internal unrest in the military ranks.

"I think the country is leading to a kind of state failure," Aung said. "The military is with this humiliating defeat and at the same time the opposition are gaining momentum."

The analyst suggested that Min Aung Hlaing strategy could be to hold on to power until the junta holds long-promised elections next year.

"I think in 2024, the conflict will intensify. But now the military has been preparing to hold elections as a way out in 2025," Aung said.

"I think it's going to be strategy for Min Aung Hlaing. But I think the various kinds of crises — politics, military and economic social crisis are intensifying. And now a lot of people are expecting change," he added.

"A lot of people from the military business sectors and from other groups, are talking about changes in the leaderships."

Edited by: Keith Walker