New challenges ahead as Myanmar’s spring revolution enters next phase

The ongoing spring revolution in Myanmar is a show of significant resistance against the military junta.

The ongoing spring revolution in Myanmar is a show of significant resistance against the military junta. The current uprising represents one of the most widespread conflicts against the military’s authority in the Southeast Asian nation. Revolutionary armed organisations and resistance forces have gained control in significant areas, particularly in border regions, following the toppling of the civilian government in a coup on 1 February 2021.

To understand Myanmar’s situation today, it is important to become familiar with its history from the time when it was called Burma. On 19 July 1947, Aung San, the revered Burmese independence leader and father of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and prominent political figure, was assassinated along with several other influential political figures by a group of armed assailants. This killing, orchestrated by U Saw, a former Prime Minister of Burma and political rival of Aung San, marked a pivotal moment in Burmese history.

Despite achieving independence from British colonial rule in 1948, Myanmar found itself grappling with ethnic insurgencies and internal conflicts in the post-independence era. This period of turmoil set the stage for General Ne Win’s coup d’état in 1962, which plunged the nation into decades of authoritarian military rule.

In 2008, under international and internal pressure, Myanmar’s military introduced a new constitution as the country’s “roadmap to democracy.” But despite recognising a multi-party system and protecting political rights, the constitution entrenched military dominance by reserving 25% of parliamentary seats for military appointees, granting the military control over key ministries and providing the military with the authority to declare emergencies.

In Myanmar’s 2020 general elections, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory. However, the military disputed the results, alleging irregularities. On 1 February 2021, the military staged a coup, overthrowing the civilian government and detaining NLD leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. The military’s structural power, embedded in the 2008 constitution, enabled this coup and led to the re-imposition of military rule in Myanmar.

A group of elected lawmakers and members of parliament ousted in the coup formed the National Unity Government (NUG), which has mobilised its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force (PDF), and allied with several ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) to challenge the junta. The NUG and its allies aim to overthrow the military dictatorship and establish a Federal Democratic Union. They assert the military’s unconstitutional seizure of power has invalidated the 2008 constitution.

In an exclusive interview, Nay Phone Latt, spokesperson for the NUG’s Prime Minister Office explained how with the 2008 constitution in place, the Myanmar people have little opportunity to make their voices heard.

“The biggest and fundamental problem with the 2008 constitution is that it was drafted by the Myanmar Military and essentially designed to safeguard its core interests and to perpetuate its power in the country,” said the spokesperson.

“So it is impossible for any civilian representatives of peoples across the diverse ethnic communities to secure or promote any of their interests.”

Myanmar has an ethnically diverse population, influenced by its ancient kingdoms and colonial history. The country is administratively divided into 7 regions, primarily inhabited by the Bamar majority and 7 states which accommodate various ethnic minorities. Naypyidaw, established as the capital in 2005, operates as a union territory under central government control. Myanmar also includes self-administered zones and divisions providing varying levels of autonomy to smaller ethnic groups.

However, the country’s political landscape has long been dominated by the military, hindering decentralisation and democratic progress, while exacerbating ethnic tensions and contributing to armed conflicts in some regions.

Fighting between ethnic armed groups and the military across large parts of the country has intensified since the 2021 coup. Areas such as Rakhine, Kachin, Shan, Chin and Karen in particular have seen severe military tactics including airstrikes, ground assaults and the use of cluster munitions, leading to thousands of civilian deaths and significant population displacement.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-profit human rights organisation, since the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar, 5,341 civilians and pro-democracy activists have been killed by the junta. Additionally, a total of 26,936 arrests have been made, of which 20,654 individuals are still detained, including those serving sentences.

In May 2024, the EAO Arakan Army (AA) seized control of Buthidaung in Rakhine State, sparking fierce battles with the Myanmar military and displacing Rohingya communities further. Reports of arson and widespread flight echo the tragic events of the 2017 Rohingya crisis. But despite the AA’s denial of targeting civilians, allegations persist, complicating the dire humanitarian situation.

When asked about allegations against both the armed organisation and the military of committing humanitarian abuses against the Rohingyas, and how the NUG addresses these concerns, Nay Phone Latt said obtaining accurate information from Rakhine State has been challenging due to internet blackouts in many townships.

He added that the Myanmar military has been conscripting Rohingya people from Internally Displaced People camps and forcing them to the front lines, actions that the NUG strongly condemns as violations of human rights.

The NUG’s policy position on the Rohingya in Rakhine State is to recognise their citizenship and ensure their rights and safety. It condemns abuses against the Rohingya and commits to addressing humanitarian concerns and protecting all civilians. In line with this, the group has appointed Rohingya human rights defender Aung Kyaw Moe as Deputy Minister for Human Rights. It aims to abolish the 1982 Citizenship Law and replace it with a new law that must be based on citizenship on birth in Myanmar or birth anywhere as a child of Myanmar citizens.

Despite the perception of fragmentation, Nay Phone Latt sees the unity of diverse groups as a strength. “While the dominant international narrative is that we are all so fragmented, we see that so many diverse political and armed groups from different generations came together for this fight,” he said.

“With these hardships, experiences and lessons carried under our belts, Myanmar will be able to establish a federal government and federal army, along with vibrant governing bodies of federal units, that will endure the difficult process of governing the country in coming years.

“The military junta, the State Administration Council (SAC), tries to create the impression that EAOs are represented in its council.

“However, none of the politically or militarily strong EAOs have allied with the SAC since its coup.”

The spokesperson went on to discuss the NUG’s vision of establishing a federal democratic union after the military’s defeat. Adding: “It will not solely depend on the NUG or the next Transitional NUG alone – it’ll depend on all diverse and various political groups and resistance armed forces across the country to ensure stability and peace during the transition.

“We anticipate that there’ll be a process of restoring public security and stability while, in parallel, political dialogues will be held for various political and security provisions for the future federal democratic union.”

Nay Phone Latt stressed that if the Myanmar junta is defeated and the NUG comes to power, the federal army will be inclusive, allowing any citizen to join. He highlighted that for the first time in Myanmar’s history, diverse political groups – those who fought for democracy and human rights and those for self-determination and autonomy – came together to overthrow military rule.

Meanwhile, Nay Phone Latt describes the military as a “terrorist organisation”, pointing to forced conscription and reserve forces law aimed at recruiting civilians and retired soldiers against their will.

He says that the doors to revolution are still open to defectors, deserters and those surrendering from the Junta’s troops. According to him, over 15,000 Civil Disobedience Movement soldiers and police have joined the NUG and receive support from a committee implementing the People’s Embrace Project, an initiative aimed at reducing bloodshed in the revolution.

The NUG claims the PDF and ethnic revolutionary groups currently control over 60% of the country’s territories but that in reaction to these territorial gains, the military has escalated air attacks on civilians because it is no longer able to effectively counter ground assaults.

“Since the very beginning, there has been no international support in our armed struggle,” continued Nay Phone Latt.

“After public protests calling for R2P (responsibility to protect) and various requests for support had failed, people and resistance forces have only focused on carrying on this fight on their own.

“Possessing aircraft and jets would be bonuses for us but they will not determine the secure military outcomes and ground controls.”

Myanmar is expected to hold elections in 2025 but many important political parties were dissolved after the Union Election Commission implemented new regulations requiring political parties to re-register or face dissolution. The requirements were tough to meet and many significant parties, including the NLD, chose not to apply as an act of protest.

Myanmar’s economy is fragile, marked by high inflation rates, food insecurity, rising poverty and disruptions in essential services and infrastructure. According to the International Rescue Committee, the humanitarian crisis is exacerbated by ongoing conflicts, with over 18.6 million people in need of aid and 2.7 million internally displaced. As the NUG and its allies look towards a tough and prolonged battle, they are calling for providers of humanitarian aid and support to interface directly with them.

“While there is support for humanitarian needs and public services from international sources, it is not yet sufficient,” said Nay Phone Latt.

“The most effective solution for international organisations would be to coordinate directly with the NUG and ethnic revolutionary organisations rather than working with groups under the control of the military, if they truly wish to help the people of Myanmar.”

Ruchika Saini
Ruchika Saini
Ruchika Saini is a journalist from India who currently lives in the UK and writes about global affairs, international diplomacy and human rights. You can reach her at ruchika.sainikv[at]