Reading Between the Headlines Where Myanmar Stands

by mohingamatters

On April 20, 2024, The New York Times published an article called A Ragtag Resistance Sees the Tide Turning in a Forgotten War, which followed a young girl fighting against the junta in the Karenni State, Myanmar. What caught our attention was the use of the word “Forgotten” in the title. In the very first sentence, the word appears again. We could not agree more with the usage. Another article was published in The New York Times on April 20, 2024. It’s titled Why Myanmar’s War Matters, Even if the World Isn’t Watching. Once again, the title is spot on. Although it is deep into three years, Myanmar’s fight for resistance has long been forgotten. To be fair, the world has its fair share of troubles to monitor. A country in Southeast Asia between China and India does not make enough noise to keep an eye on all the time. The New York Times is reminding the world about our existence now as if the great media platform itself has not forgotten our fight.

The timing could not have been better

A week before the article was published, precisely on April 12, The New York Times ran an article titled Myanmar Rebels Take Key Trading Town, but Counteroffensive Looms. The piece was about the news of the capture of Myawaddy, a strategic border town between Myanmar and Thailand, by the resistance forces. The event shook all stakeholders involved in the resistance, including the regime itself, the people of Myanmar, and other armed organizations across the country. Never once in history, the Myanmar military has been defeated like this to lose a town as significant as Myawaddy. Apparently, it has also raised the eyebrows of onlookers from afar, such as the so-called international community, and the international media. At that moment, the seizure of Myawaddy suggested the ultimate victory could be on the verge. Some people may have taken notes and decided to place a bet on the leading horse in the race.

The news about Myawaddy reminded people of the real possibility of the resistance forces coming out on top in this fight. And no one better than the Western media, such as the likes of The New York Times does it well; educating the world about why it exists and why it matters, just in time, just when the most significant town of Myanmar’s border trade was seized. On April 20, 2024, a third article appeared in The New York Times titled What’s Happening In Myanmar’s Civil War? This time, the piece is about the Myanmar war, with appealing visuals and infographics where the fights are happening, the location of armed forces, the number of displacements, and at the end, it informs about the people of Myanmar and whether the country is called Burma or Myanmar, fact-based explainers which can be easily grasped for those who want to understand the situation. 

We are not blaming them

It’s necessary to clear the air here that the point of the article is not to call the Western media out. We do not count on anyone outside the country to keep monitoring events happening in Myanmar. We do not think it’s in the best interests of a total stranger to care for our cause. In the early days of the coup, the people of Myanmar hoped for a UN intervention where the US soldiers would save us. But the fantasy did not last long. People learned fast and learned hard. The armed resistance in Myanmar would not have come this far without the quick realization of the fact that we are on our own. 

There are a few things that attention from the outside world could potentially contribute to the cause at hand; such as advocating for an embargo on arms trade and aviation fuel between the junta and its allies, as well as urging the UN to place “No Fly Zone” in Myanmar to prevent more airstrikes and calling for the United States to unfreeze USD 1 billion for the revolutionary forces. Other than that, we are pretty much okay being on our own. Hence, we do not believe the Western media has the “duty” to serve our purpose. We just have one question, considering the timing of growing coverage on our resistance: “Do they know something that we don’t?”

Do they really know something we don’t?

Before the publication of the articles mentioned above, The New York Times rarely ran more than one article about Myanmar in the same month, let alone on the same day. Its previous coverages on Myanmar were routine news on the well-being and updates of Aung San Suu Kyi, the latest conscription law, and featured stories on individuals contributing to the resistance in their own ways. Even during Operation 1027 which was one of the greatest highlights of the resistance, only one article titled Rebels Are Notching Key Wins Against the Military Junta in Myanmar reached a wider audience.  

In early April, we happened to experience much positive news, the victory of Myawaddy, the attack on Deputy Junta Chief Soe Win, and the relocation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint. All the Western news coverage took place at the same time. This sparked a question amongst us: why now? It feels as if the Western media already know who is coming out on top of the fight and they want to be prepared for the outcome. The situation parallels the irony of a newspaper drafting an obituary for a former president on the brink of death. If there is no such thing, why are we on the news suddenly? Do they, the Western media, find that the world has too many problems to focus on, it’s time to close this tiny chapter that features us. If so, do they call the shots?

Tables have been turned, sadly

Just when we were so excited about the positive news and the international coverage of Myanmar, the dynamics of the politics in the country changed again. In the later stages of April, the regime somehow took hold of Myawaddy through its ally. The state counselor and the president have been put back in prison after unsuccessful negotiations with the regime, the deputy chief is reportedly back controlling the military operation surrounding Karen State. In reality and the long run, they may not even turn out to be negative news. However, at least, all this news serves as reality checks for us, the ultimate victory may not be that soon. 

The latest coverage about Myanmar in The New York Times has been the news that the regime has captured the strategic Myawaddy back, titled Myanmar’s Junta Recaptures Town That Was a Significant Gain for Rebels. With this, all the questions we had above were proven wrong. The Western media is not particularly aware of any potential victory, and it does not call the shots. At best, the paper was simply hoping to predict a winner and willing to bet on it for the time being. 

We don’t know how long until another piece is run by The New York Times about Myanmar. It will probably not write many more stories until it is confident of another potential ending to this madness, no matter who the winner may be.

Onlookers in Myanmar’s fight

In every sport, there are fans and there are onlookers. Fans cheer on their teams regardless of the game’s result or the dynamics of the games. The onlookers only start jumping when they sense a positive result out of the game. Fans drive and motivate the players during the matches, but onlookers only join in the celebration afterward. Myanmar’s current situation has many onlookers who will observe from a distance and join in when it’s time for celebration. Until then, the players on the pitch have so much work to do. Once again, it’s not the duty of Western media to cheer on a fight where they don’t have a dog in. They should just better be ready with facts and information about the winner when the results are clear. 

Until then, it could be long before we read about Myanmar’s war in the international media.

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