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Myanmar Update December 2023

The “1027” Uprising Against the February 2021 Military Coup

You may have missed the dramatic news from Burma a month ago because international news since October 7 has been dominated by the Israel-Hamas mess.

On October 27, a set of coordinated attacks on military junta posts in Northern Burma on the Chinese border led by the “Three Brothers Alliance” was wildly successful. More than 100 of them were captured, along with weapons including tanks and armored personnel carriers.

It has been reported that one object of these attacks was to eliminate complexes of "scammers" that have in effect "enslaved" hundreds of foreigners from East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East and are vacuuming up billions of dollars from scam victims around the world. These complexes are located on the Burmese side of the Chinese border and the Thai border. In both locations, these complexes are under the protection of Border Guard Forces established by the Burmese military before the coup and now controlled by the junta. And they have become a key source of foreign exchange for the junta. The complexes have been built and managed by ethnic Chinese “gangsters”.

Some analysts speculate that the October 27 attacks were enabled, tacitly, by the Chinese government, because the scammer complexes were creating intolerable reputational damage to China and creating a national security problem on its borders. If so, this would be a crucial component of the significance of the “1027” attacks. Other analysts, however, have written that the 1027 attacks were a purely Burmese operation developed over many months by the major armed opposition groups with the sole purpose of overthrowing the junta and establishing a civilian government in Burma.

The 1027 attacks were followed by a set of attacks by other anti-junta forces across Burma, with notable success. In particular, the Arakan Army fighting for autonomy in Rakhine State broke a longstanding ceasefire to capture military posts and take control of towns there. The result is that many analysts are reassessing the consensus view of a multi-year stalemate between the junta and the opposition.

Some of the media reaction is probably premature, such as this Editorial in the Washington Post on November 28 advising the US government to prepare for the collapse of the junta:

The front page of the Washington Post on December 4 featured a story about the ethnic minorities that have been fighting for autonomy since independence in 1948. This story is also flawed in failing to explain that the current success of the ethnic minorities has much to do with the fact that the Bamar Buddhist ethnic majority in Burma has risen up massively to end military rule.

The US Institute of Peace has done some outstanding work on the conflict in Burma. Here is a link to its most recent podcast. You can easily find other 1027-related material by searching on the USIP home page:

One comprehensive Burma-based analysis comes from the Institute for Strategy and Policy—Myanmar, Here is a link to their analysis, which includes detailed maps:

The International Crisis Group does outstanding work on Burma. Here is a link to a November 17 Q&A by its leading Burma analyst on the 1027 attacks:

It will not be easy to see updates on the uprising in Burma until the US media give less attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict and the war in Ukraine—and the 2024 election in the USA. The anti-military opposition in Burma is now focused on gaining control of border crossings from Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh. Success here is hugely important because it would allow humanitarian aid to flow to Burma’s long-suffering population. The pressure on foreign governments to engage the opposition to manage this aid flow will then intensify, hopefully leading some key governments, especially in Thailand, to recognize the opposition diplomatically and withdraw support to the military junta.

Parami University is on a Roll

For readers who are new to Parami University, it launched in 2020 as a start-up: Burma’s first private, nonprofit liberal arts college, modeled on Bard College in upstate New York. When the military coup took place on 1 February 2021, we were a few weeks away from breaking ground on a residential campus for 600 students an hour north of Yangon. Ten months later, Parami University was reinvented as an online, degree-granting higher education institution licensed in Washington, DC, serving primarily students in Burma. Our Founder/President is based in New York City, our faculty is scattered across Asia, Europe, and the United States, and our administrative staff is split between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

As a member of the Board of Trustees of Parami University, my optimistic view of its progress since my June 2023 update must reflect some bias. I continue to view the progress as close to miraculous. Obstacles are being overcome and challenges are being met.

In August, our second Freshman class began it studies, roughly tripling our student body to around 140 students as we build to a 4-class student body of around 400 students in the next two academic years. A first question I am usually asked is “how many of these students are in Burma?” The answer is about 130 of them are physically within the borders of Burma. The students outside of the borders are in refugee camps in Thailand and India, in the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, and in a refugee camp in Kenya (the two students there are refugees from Sudan).

Teaching is “synchronous”, meaning that professors engage with students in live online sessions. There is very little reliable electricity and internet inside Burma, so we have created several “learning hubs” for small groups of students where we provide generators, food stipends, accommodations, and whatever else they need to complete their course work.

Another frequent question is why the military junta allows Parami to operate. The most interesting answer is that the capacity of the junta to monitor opposition activity appears to be limited to what is done in the Burmese language. Parami’s operations are entirely in English. In addition, we keep a low profile and remain independent of all opposition organizations.

I am now personally involved in three Parami projects. The most important is a program under which we plan to bring ten rising Juniors to the USA next summer for 8-week internships, five in New York City and five in Washington DC. By February, we hope to have formal commitments from ten sponsoring organizations and from ten families that will host the interns in their homes. Please contact me with any suggestions for sponsoring organizations or host families.

Another project is to line up eminent speakers for conversations with our students, at the rate of two per month. This Conversation series began in August with Derek Mitchell, US Ambassador to Burma when diplomatic relations were restored after the 2020 election and who recently stepped down from being President of the National Democratic Institute. Other speakers have been a retired USAID Mission Director in Burma, a retired senior official at the International Monetary Fund, and a former senior official in the State Department now teaching at Princeton University. We welcome suggestions for speakers who have comparable perspectives on the world.

The third project is fundraising, a key challenge for everyone who is on an NGO Board of Directors or a university Board of Trustees. We had a modest annual online fundraiser for our scholarship program in October/November that was successful. We are organizing a fundraising reception in Washington DC on 13 January 2024. People seeing this update who live in the DC area should be getting invitations before Christmas. We will be doing a similar reception in New York City later in the year. We have commissioned a professional fundraising video that we hope will be helpful in finding some major donors.

For more information about Parami University, here is a link to its website:

For additional information, sign up for Parami’s regular newsletters. Here’s a link to the November 30 edition:

If you have any questions about Parami, especially about donations, please contact me by email:


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