Since seizing control of the country on February 1st, the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces, have diligently sought to maintain an image of legitimacy. Claiming unverified election fraud and the constitutional right to install military rule, coup-maker General Min Aung Hlaing initially promised free and fair democratic elections in one year. Last week, the general declared himself Prime Minister of a newly formed caretaker government, but pledged that elections would be held in August 2023. The Tatmadaw has drawn on a centuries-old tradition of legitimizing their rule as protectors of the sacred Buddhist realm, urging civilians to recite Buddhist verses during the COVID pandemic and continuing construction of a large Buddha statue in their capital of Naypyitaw. After hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests at the junta’s hands, however, many civilians all over Myanmar have nothing but distrust and hatred for the military regime.
In April, anti-coup opposition coalesced with the founding of a pro-democracy shadow civilian government, the National Unity Government (NUG). Composed of leaders from the deposed National League of Democracy (NLD) and leaders from ethnic minority groups — ones that have resisted the Tatmadaw for decades — the NUG has striven to be seen as Myanmar’s true, legitimate government in the eyes of Myanmar’s population as well as the international community. Calling on all anti-junta ethnic armed organizations to join its cause, the NUG has rallied many anti-coup militias under its banner of the “People’s Defense Force,” promising this to be only a precursor to a Federal Army capable of ending the junta’s reign once and for all.
For both the Tatmadaw and the NUG, however, prospects look grim for gaining control over the whole country. Despite having superior firepower, the Tatmadaw — for decades — has been unable to overcome Myanmar’s twenty-some ethnic armies in the country’s borderlands. Many ethnic armed organizations have denounced the coup, but only a small handful have decided to cooperate with the NUG; some remain suspicious of the NUG’s ties to the Bamar-dominated NLD, while others seem more intent on maintaining their own territories and interests. Even if all of Myanmar’s ethnic armies combined forces, they would only match perhaps a fifth of the Tatmadaw’s ranks of 300,000-350,000. Meanwhile, the economy continues to draw near collapse, COVID surges unabated, and the country spirals towards state failure as Myanmar remains trapped in deadlock.
- Pray that God, who can turn the heart of any king or ruler, would move Myanmar’s leaders to end this deadlock before Myanmar utterly collapses.
- Pray that Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, would advance His government and reign despite this chaos.