Ongoing militarisation in southeast Myanmar

Since 1949 different Karen ethnic armed groups have been fighting against the Myanmar government’s army (Tatmadaw). Arguably it is the world’s longest-running civil war. In 2011, former President Thein Sein opened the door for ethnic groups to negotiate peace with the government. Then, in January 2012, the Myanmar government, led by Railway minister U Aung Min, and the Karen National Union (KNU) met for the first time to have peace talks in Hpa-an. As a result, the KNU signed a preliminary ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government on January 12th 2012. Further talks between the government and the KNU were held and finally on October 15th 2015, a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) was signed between the government and eight of the fifteen ethnic armed groups originally invited to the negotiation table, including the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA), KNU/KNLA-Peace Council (KNU/KNLA-PC), and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA Benevolent). While embraced by the United Nations (UN), the decision to sign the NCA was criticised by some members of the Karen armed resistance and Karen civil society groups in southeast Myanmar who felt that the NCA was a superficial agreement that risked undermining a genuine peace process. The current situation is that of a ceasefire; a long lasting peace is yet to be achieved, so the world’s longest running civil war cannot be said to have ended yet.

We have all witnessed, in November 2015, a landslide victory of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which further heightened expectations for enduring peace and stability. It must be noted however that the military-drafted Constitution still appoints 25% of the Hluttaw (Parliament) seats to the military and the key security ministries of defense, home affairs, and border affairs are military-controlled. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who now holds the offices of Myanmar State Counsellor, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the President’s Office, met with the NCA Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) for the first time on April 27th 2016.

More recently, on August 31st 2016, the 21st Century Panglong conference began. The new peace conference strived to include groups that have not yet signed the NCA, but only partially succeeded as the Arakan Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), also known as the Kokang Army, and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army were barred from participation even though they expressed willingness. A non-signatory group that did participate initially, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) reportedly withdrew from the conference because they were only given ‘observer’ status and not an equal status as the other participants. Another major concern on the 21st Century Panglong conference was the lack of women’s participation, a trend which Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) also pointed out in its recently published report ‘Hidden Strengths, Hidden Struggles’.

Download this full commentary in English here.

သတင္းမွတ္တမ္း ျမန္မာဘာသာကုိ ဤေနရာတြင္ ရယူႏုိင္သည္။

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