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Under pressure: Myanmar Army struggles to counter ethnic offensive in Shan State

In this photo taken in March 2023 members of ethnic rebel group Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) take part in a training exercise at their base camp in the forest in Myanmar's northern Shan State. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The Myanmar Army is facing unprecedented pressure to respond to the sharpest military reverses it has suffered since the coup of 2021 that have severed the country's overland trade routes to China and seen the loss of a border town.

The latest challenge for a force already overstretched by a multifront civil war follows a co-ordinated insurgent offensive that opened on 27 October across a wide swathe of northeastern Shan State, stretching from Mandalay Region in the west to Kokang on the Chinese border in the east.

Launched by the so-called Brotherhood Alliance of three ethnic minority factions, the offensive – which evidently caught the military off guard – struck security force positions along the length of the country's busiest trade artery, the highway linking Mandalay city in central Myanmar to the Chinese border at Muse, as well as along a secondary road leading to the Kokang town of Chin Shwe Haw, also on the Chinese border.

According to news reports and social media posts, Chin Shwe Haw fell to insurgent forces in the opening hours of the offensive with fighting near the small town's border checkpoint, leaving at least 15 Myanmar police dead and causing destruction to buildings inside China. Near the town, MNDAA attackers also destroyed two army Ukrainian-built MT-LBMSh infantry fighting vehicles presumably inflicting additional casualties.

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