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The Myanmar Civil War

Who are the main players?



The Myanmar Civil War has been raging for over seven decades, fueled by ethnic and political tensions and complicated by the military’s interference in the country’s governance. The conflict has drawn in a myriad of armed groups, ranging from government forces and ethnic militias to revolutionary movements and splinter factions. With the situation becoming increasingly volatile, it is important to understand the key players in this ongoing conflict and their positions in the current state of affairs.

Who are the main players in the Myanmar Civil War - and who is winning?

1. The Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw)

The Tatmadaw is the country’s military and the most powerful entity in Myanmar. It has controlled the government for most of the country’s history since gaining independence from British rule in 1948. The military’s involvement in the country’s governance has been a source of widespread protests and has contributed to the ongoing civil war. The Tatmadaw is fighting against ethnic militias, revolutionary movements, and splinter factions who are seeking greater autonomy or independence from the central government.

Current Position:

Despite facing numerous challenges, the Tatmadaw still holds significant control over the country and has successfully quelled rebellions in several regions, including Shan and Kachin states.

2. Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs)

EAOs are a coalition of armed groups representing ethnic minorities across Myanmar, including the Kachin, Karen, and Shan people. These groups have been fighting for greater autonomy and equal representation in the country’s governance for decades. They have also been accused of human rights abuses and drug trafficking, though these claims are disputed.


Current Position:

EAOs have managed to hold onto their territories despite facing constant military pressure from the Tatmadaw. They have also made alliances with other opposition groups to further their objectives.


3. Revolutionary Movements

The most prominent revolutionary movement in Myanmar is the Karen National Union (KNU). It is a political organization representing the Karen people and their aspirations for self-determination. The KNU has been fighting for an independent Karen state since 1949 and has recently stepped up its activities. It has received support from other EAOs and opposition groups, but its tactics have also been criticized for being violent and unproductive.

Current Position: The KNU has gained control of several areas along the Myanmar-Thai border, but it still faces significant challenges from the Tatmadaw.


4. Splinter Factions

Splinter factions are groups that have split from larger organizations, either due to ideological or leadership disputes. They often have conflicting objectives and can complicate the already complex dynamics of the conflict.


Current Position:

Splinter factions are generally weaker than the larger groups, but they can still carry out attacks and cause disruptions. Some of these groups have made alliances with other opposition groups, while others are fighting against each other.



Q: Is there any end in sight for the Myanmar Civil War? A: The situation is unpredictable, and it is difficult to say when the conflict will end. Several peace talks have taken place, but they have not led to a lasting resolution. The recent coup by the Tatmadaw has only exacerbated the situation.

Q: Are there any humanitarian implications of the conflict? A: The conflict has caused immense suffering, with thousands of civilians being displaced, injured, or killed. Humanitarian aid is often limited due to the security situation, and access to basic necessities like food and healthcare is restricted in many conflict-affected areas.



The Myanmar Civil War is a complex and protracted conflict that involves a myriad of armed groups with various different objectives. The coup in February 2021 led to widespread protests against the military, brutal crackdowns and eventually the declaration of a defensive war for democracy in the summer. However, despite various efforts, the country has not united as one behind a single voice of opposition - and the battle for effective control of large parts of the country continues.   

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