Generals from Myanmar's junta held peace talks in June near the border with China with representatives of three powerful ethnic armies. They sat across a wide table covered with blue cloth and decorated with elaborate bouquets.

But the rebels were playing a double-game.

Secretly, the ethnic armies — collectively called the Three Brotherhood Alliance — had already laid the groundwork for Operation 1027, a major offensive launched in October that has become the most significant threat to the regime since it seized power in a 2021 coup.