Burma: Could Fuel Shortages Hasten the Fall of the Junta?

The Burmese Army’s armored vehicles that Nikkei Asia puts on its cover dated July 8, will they be able to continue rolling for much longer? The junta, which imports almost all the petroleum products needed by its army, today at war with a myriad of resistance groups on a multitude of fronts, is in fact short of foreign currency. “Its dependence on imported fuels could cause its downfall,” This is what the Japanese weekly newspaper claims, publishing a long investigation on the subject.

This once all-powerful army “is learning a very bitter lesson in logistics,” continues Nikkei Asia. General Min Aung Hlaing’s troops, including the coup in February 2021 rekindled the civil war, “must scramble to find increasingly expensive supplies of gasoline, diesel and kerosene to fuel their military machine.”

This fuel is essential for Russian fighter-bombers and attack helicopters, but also for armoured vehicles and personnel carriers as well as for all military installations, including 25 arms factories.

An oil “dilemma”

Since February 2021, international attention has focused on kerosene imports, the magazine notes. Sanctions have been taken by the United States or the European Union against certain individuals, but not to ban the import of petroleum products. Western countries refuse to deprive civilians of this – who are already struggling to get supplies while prices continue to soar. Hence the “dilemma”, that Nikkei Asia evokes in the title of her investigation.

In the field, “the noose is tightening” around the juntathe magazine writes. Especially since the launch last October of the vast offensive dubbed “Operation 1027” by an alliance of several armed groups. The junta has lost large swathes of territory. In the northeast of the country, in Shan State, a ceasefire that had prevailed since the beginning of the year was shattered at the end of June, and the large city of Lashio, held by the junta’s army, is said to be on the verge of falling.

Could the lack of fuel thus hasten the defeat of the tatmadaw, the Burmese army? In any case, it is slowing down the rapid deployment of troops, whose numbers were estimated at 95,000 men before a large number of losses and desertions. The junta no longer has sufficient foreign currency reserves to increase, or even continue, its fuel imports – in 2023, they amounted to 5.5 billion dollars (around 4.6 billion euros). Ultimately, notes Nikkei Asia, “More than sanctions, it is the poor health of the Burmese economy that risks causing the most harm” to the ruling junta.

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