Civilian casualties rise in Myanmar’s civil war

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Saw Win Myint, a commander of a military unit under the Karen National Union, the leading political body for the Karen ethnic minority that is part of the resistance against military rule in Myanmar, inspects the damaged armory in the captured army base of Infantry Battalion 275 in Myawaddy township in Kayin state, Myanmar, on April 12. (AP)

BANGKOK, Ma 9, (AP): Six months into an offensive against Myanmar ’s military government, opposition forces have made massive gains, but civilian casualties are rising sharply as regime troops increasingly turn toward scorched-earth tactics in the Southeast Asian country’s bitter civil war.
There is pressure on all fronts from powerful militias drawn from Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups and newer resistance forces. Troops are retaliating with air, naval and artillery strikes on hospitals and other facilities where the opposition could be sheltered or aided.
“When the mass of people rise up against them, I think it terrifies them,” said Dave Eubank, a former US Special Forces soldier who founded the Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian aid organization that has provided assistance to both combatants and civilians in Myanmar since the 1990s.
“They know that hospitals, churches, schools and monasteries are important places for human care, and gathering, and symbols – and they hammer them,” said Eubank. “That’s new.”
Military forces now control less than half the country, but are holding on tenaciously to much of central Myanmar including the capital, Naypyidaw – recently targeted by drone attacks – and largest city, Yangon, and is far better armed than the resistance forces, with support from Russia and China.
“People have been saying that the regime was on the brink of collapse since two weeks after the coup,” in February 2021, said Morgan Michaels, an analyst with the International Institute of Strategic Studies who runs its Myanmar Conflict Map project.
“On the other hand, obviously the regime is weaker than it’s ever been…. so there’s no doubt that it’s in serious, serious trouble,” he said.

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