Conflicts In Numbers

How Much of Myanmar Does the Junta Really Control?

By The Irrawaddy 1 April 2023

It’s interesting and important to know how much of Myanmar the junta really controls. Opposition forces, including the parallel government and ethnic revolutionary organizations, insist that they control over half of the country’s territory.

The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) said in September last year that the regime only controlled 72 out of the country’s 330 townships.

In a rare public admission that the country is not fully under the junta’s control, regime chief Min Aung Hlaing said at a National Defense and Security Council meeting in February that 198 townships were 100 percent peaceful, adding that there were 67 townships where security has to be a priority and that another 65 were in need of serious security measures.

“Some rural areas need more security as well,” he added.

He didn’t say which townships are in which category. Most importantly, Min Aung Hlaing’s claim that 198 townships are “100 percent peaceful” should be viewed with skepticism because:

  1. It basically implies that areas where there is no fighting are under the junta’s control. But it should be kept in mind that there are some areas controlled by ethnic armed groups that are free of fighting but where the regime’s authority is not in effect. For example, the Wa region under the United Wa State Army is not under the junta’s control. The same goes for most of the townships in Rakhine State today, where fighting between junta troops and the Arakan Army (AA) is no longer reported but the regime’s control is limited to the state capital Sittwe. Other parts of the state are in the hands of the AA. So we should not be under the mistaken impression that the regime has complete control of those 198 townships.
  2. Generally, as in Rakhine State, it’s safe to say that the regime’s administration or control is solely confined to capitals in most of the country’s states and regions, including in anti-regime strongholds like Sagaing Region.
  3. The Myanmar capital Naypyitaw is the regime’s stronghold. So it’s undoubtedly under the regime’s control. In the commercial hub Yangon, there is no fighting but there are still occasional hit-and-run attacks on regime targets.

Despite Min Aung Hlaing’s claim, given the situation on the ground, it is still possible to estimate, at least, which parts of the country are not affected by fighting, and which are being ravaged by armed clashes between junta troops and resistance forces. This map shows where they are: