3 years after Myanmar’s coup, the walls are closing in on the country’s junta

Humiliation and setbacks mark the junta’s decline as battle-hardened ethnic armed groups and young pro-democracy rebels mount effective resistance, pushing the military back into a central Myanmar heartland.

Three years after the coup that shook Myanmar, the walls are closing in on the country’s junta and its leader, Min Aung Hlaing. Once an invincible force, the military is now facing challenges on multiple fronts, losing ground across a significant stretch of territory from east to west.

Humiliation and setbacks mark the junta’s decline as battle-hardened ethnic armed groups and young pro-democracy rebels mount effective resistance, pushing the military back into a central Myanmar heartland. The once-unchallenged authority of the junta appears to be eroding, leading to speculation about the possibility of a “spring revolution” gaining momentum, especially within Myanmar’s fervent and anti-junta social media circles.

Despite the challenges and risks, pro-democracy activists, ethnic groups, and ordinary citizens are uniting in their determination to oppose the junta and restore democratic governance.

Aung Zay Ya, a mechanical engineer, reflects the sentiments of many in Myanmar, acknowledging the difficulties ahead. “I think it may take longer, and it will be hard,” he says, highlighting the resilience of the younger generation whose paths have been redirected into the conflict ignited by the coup.

The junta’s attempts to suppress dissent through intimidation, arrests, and violence have failed to quell the growing resistance. Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups, which have long-standing grievances against the central government, have found common cause with pro-democracy rebels, creating a formidable opposition force. To This Week in Asia from Karenni state, he said, “But I can see the dictatorship is slowly falling apart.”

Aung Zay Ya is 27 years old and currently leading volunteer doctors and also rescuers for the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers. He redirected his life into the eastern Myanmar forests where he rescued villages trapped under air strikes and delivered relief camps and medical help to displaced people young rebel fighters and their wounded opponents. By quoting the Bible as his guide to his treatment of the enemy, Aung Zay Ya said, “I don’t hate them.”

The rebels and ethnic armed groups, with their local knowledge and support, have effectively contested the junta’s authority and expanded their influence, making the central heartland the junta’s last stronghold.