Myanmar has faced turmoil and strife since its democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown by the Tatmadaw, the country’s military, on February 1, 2021. The country is currently run by Tatmadaw leader Min Aung Hlaing, who was internationally scrutinised for his role in orchestrating the 2017 genocide against the ethnic minority Rohingya. The coup faced mass opposition by civilians in the country; civil disobedience against the Tatmadaw turned incredibly violent, with some news outlets likening the turmoil in the country to a civil war. An opposition shadow government, the National Unity Government (NUG) was formed and created troops to fight Tatmadaw battalions. Pro-military shadow militias also formed and have been indiscriminately killing civilians who hold pro-democracy views. While much of the media continues to ignore Myanmar, violence between these groups is consistently incited on social media.
Key Judgement 1: It is highly likely that resistance groups across Myanmar will continue targeted killings against Tatmadaw affiliates over the next 6 months.
- More than 400-armed pro-democracy resistance groups formed since the coup. Many of them regularly assassinate ward administrators across Myanmar, whom they accuse of surveilling the public and collecting local intelligence for Tatmadaw leaders. (source)
- The NUG currently has approximately 60,000 fighters in battalions who regularly engage in fighting the Tatmadaw throughout jungled areas of the country. Armed resistance groups typically operate in larger cities, where they carry out targeted attacks. This fighting occurs daily, though it is underreported by the media. (source)
- Although the Tatmadaw refuses to discuss how many of its fighters have died, they acknowledged that more than one ward administrator is assassinated daily. (source)
Key Judgement 2: It is highly likely that violence against pro-democracy opposition by the pro-military militias continues over the next 6 months.
- Pro-military groups, particularly Thwe Thauk Apwe (which translates to “blood-drinking group”), have been terrorizing ordinary civilians and pro-democracy advocates across Myanmar. In two weeks, they killed 14 members of the National League of Democracy (Myanmar’s former ruling party).
- Over the past two weeks, Thwe Thauk Apwe killed 14 members of the National League of Democracy (Myanmar’s former ruling party). The bodies of their victims were found holding a card depicting a red circle with an image of a Burmese warrior holding two swords. (source)
- Thwe Thauk Apwe is allegedly linked to the ultranationalist Buddhist group, Ma Ba Tha, and hardline monk Wirathu, who played a significant role in supporting inciting genocidal violence against the Rohingya. (source)
Key Judgement 3: It is likely that social media will continue to be used to instigate violence against pro-democracy supporters over the next 6 months.
- Thwe Thauk Apwe continues uploading images of their victims to popular social media applications, including Facebook and Telegram.
- On Telegram, the group has shared revenge porn of female pro-democracy activists, shared videos of the murders of resistance fighters, and posted personal and identifying information (doxing) about people opposed to the coup. (source)
- Military officials publicly reshared the group’s violent posts and reshared misinformation on Facebook.
- Although inciting violence is a violation of both companies’ terms of service, Telegram and Facebook have not done much to mitigate the violence being incited on their platforms.
- Facebook is currently being sued by Rohingya in the UK and Bangladesh after the company admitted that it had not done its due diligence to prevent the incitement of hate speech and violence against the Rohingya. (source)
Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 20th of June 2022