Myanmar Military’s ‘Four Cuts’ Strategy

Myanmar military, also known as Tatmadaw, have returned to its “four cuts strategy” in order to stamp out resistance to its rule after it seized power from elected government of Myanmar in Military coup on February 1, 2021.


  • As per an independent researcher, ‘four cuts’ strategy was first developed in the 1960s.
  • Myanmar military had developed this strategy when it was struggling to fight Communist Party of Burma and Myanmar’s oldest ethnic armed group, Karen National Union.
  • It was particularly used in Ayeyarwady Delta Region and Bago Yoma mountain range, during that time.
  • As per Naw Htoo Htoo of Karen Human Rights Group, ‘four cuts’ strategy was used by Military in areas under KNU control. It targeted every person and village, which were having ties with KNU.
  • Myanmar’s military has also used four cuts in Kachin State following a ceasefire between Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Organization collapsed in 2011.

What is four cuts strategy?

“Four cuts” doctrine was adopted in 1968 after Myanmar Military had had a chance to study British strategies during 1948-1960 Malayan Emergency. During that time, colonial power gradually choked off a communist insurgency. The “four cuts” was a doctrine which was designed to sever insurgents from their key inputs like funding, food, intelligence, and recruits. This strategy was first prosecuted against Karen rebellion before it was rolled out to deal with insurgencies. Military divided Myanmar into black, brown, and white zones in a bid to reflect insurgent-controlled, partially insurgent-controlled, and government-controlled areas. ‘Black zones’ were free-fire areas for the Military.


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