Broken Trust Underpins Stalled Peace Process

Events over the past few weeks have left ethnic people’s trust in the political will of the Myanmar[1] Government and Army to engage in a process to achieve sustainable peace and national reconciliation to hit a nadir. From Rakhine State in the west, Kachin and Shan State in the north, and Karen and Karenni State in the east, tensions are rising in the weeks leading up to the third 21st Century Panglong Conference.

In spite of the most recent news that the the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) will sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) soon, one of the largest and most influential ethnic armed organizations, the Karen National Union (KNU), has already decided it will not attend the upcoming Panglong Conference, citing concerns over the Myanmar Army’s position that Security Sector Reform is the same as Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. The wording and meaning of these two concepts has been a sticking point and for the Myanmar Army to unilaterally decide on an interpretation of this contentious issue has contributed towards distrust in their intentions at the upcoming conference. Given that the previous Panglong conferences did not achieve anything substantive, it is understandable there is doubt over the real meaning of participating, as KNU Secretary, Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo pointed out, saying “we accept the UPC [Union Peace Conference otherwise known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference] as always, but we don’t want to face a similar experience in the future, given that the last UPC dragged on just to show that it was held.”  Another point raised by the KNU was the restrictions and obstacles placed by the Myanmar Army on the holding of state-level consultations in Shan State and Rakhine State – one component of the peace process that is meant to collect public opinion and contribute to discussions at the Panglong Conferences – resulting in such meetings not being able to be held.

“We accept the UPC [Union Peace Conference otherwise known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference] as always, but we don’t want to face a similar experience in the future, given that the last UPC dragged on just to show that it was held.”

KNU Secretary, Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo

In Karenni State, trust in the Myanmar Army has been substantially weakened by the killing of three Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) soldiers and one villager at one of their bases in December 2017, despite the bilateral ceasefire that exists between the Myanmar Army and the KNPP. The situation was exacerbated when five peaceful demonstrators who were protesting these killings in the state capital, Loikaw, were arrested and charged under the Peaceful Assembly Law. A subsequent protest demonstrating against the imprisonment of the five initial protesters resulted in further three people facing a lawsuit, however, the Loikaw Township court subsequently dismissed the charges.

In northern Myanmar, the annual dry season offensive by the Myanmar Army has displaced over a thousand people in Kachin and northern Shan State, while it shelled the Kachin Independence Organization’s de facto capital, Laiza, on Christmas Eve, inflicting not just physical injury and death, but also psychological wounds on the Kachin people, who are largely Christians. This is not a new tactic – the Myanmar Army has precedent for launching attacks against Christian Kachin communities at Christmas time. In Shan State, the Shan State Army – North released a statement after its central committee meeting that pointed to the fact that it has been attacked by the Myanmar Army over 500 times since it signed a bilateral ceasefire six years ago.  It is not just offensives that local communities need to be concerned about. The three-year anniversary of the rape and murder of two ethnic Kachin school teachers in northern Shan State by the Myanmar Army troops reminds us that human rights violations that the country’s most powerful institution inflict on the local populations in ethnic areas are done so with impunity. To this day, no one has been brought to justice for the brutal acts against the two innocent school teachers.

The three-year anniversary of the rape and murder of two ethnic Kachin school teachers in northern Shan State by the Myanmar Army troops reminds us that human rights violations that the country’s most powerful institution inflict on the local populations in ethnic areas are done so with impunity.

Furthermore, in crisis-hit Rakhine State, the murder of seven demonstrators and arrest of two prominent ethnic Rakhine figures on the commemoration of the fall of the Rakhine Kingdom has exacerbated an extremely tense and volatile area. Leading up to the shootings and arrests, conflict with the Arakan Army had been increasing and alleged exhortations by the Arakan National Party leader, Aye Maung, to take up the armed struggle at a public event before he was arrested demonstrate how far from peace Rakhine State is.

Peace and national reconciliation was expressed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Government as a priority. But decades of broken trust resulting from the military oppression of successive regimes and governments can never be rebuilt through more offensives, arrests, and human rights violations committed against ethnic people. The Myanmar Government and particularly the Myanmar Army must address this by making compromises for peace; and thus far, no such compromises have been made by either party. Peace conferences and lofty talk may appear to be progress to international donors that are giving financial and political backing to the Government-led process, but the reality is that trust has been further eroded, and for many local communities in many ethnic areas, nothing has changed and in some areas the situation has in fact become worse. After years of a fractious largely unproductive peace process, the Myanmar Government and Army must demonstrate genuine political will towards addressing the historical injustices and achieving sustainable peace and national reconciliation based on the principles of equality, equity and self-determination. Lastly, the international community’s support must be contingent on such commitments.
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[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week

actions

Statements and Press Releases

ရခုုိင္ၿပည္နယ္၊ ေၿမာက္ဦးၿမိဳ ့တြင္ ၿဖစ္ပြားခဲ့ေသာ ပဋိပကၡတြင္ေသဆံုုးခဲ့သည့္ ရခုုိင္ၿပည္သူမ်ားအတြက္ ၀မ္းနည္းေၾကာင္း ACDD ၏ သေဘာထားထုုတ္ၿပန္ၿခင္း
By Action Committee for Democracy Development

Bangladesh: Returning Rohingya to Myanmar illegal and premature
By Amnesty International

Myanmar: Investigate Police Killings of Rakhine State Protesters
By Amnesty International

Myanmar: ‘Shocking Killings’ by Police in Rakhine State Must be Investigated
By Amnesty International UK

Shans angered by IFC Hydropower Meeting in Taunggyi Amidst Escalating Conflict and Blocked Peace Dialogues
By Action for Shan State Rivers

Kachin Teachers Rape and Murder: Action Needed to End Impunity
By Burma Campaign UK

Investigation Needed in Northern Rakhine State into Possibility of More Mass Graves
By Burma Human Rights Network

Bangladesh-Burma Plan for Rohingya Refugees Risks Forced Repatriation to Indefinite Detention
By Burma Human Rights Network

Police Killing of Rakhine Protesters Demands Investigation and Repercussions
By Burma Human Rights Network

EU Steps Up Support to Address the Rohingya Crisis in Bangladesh
By European Commission

Women Remain Underrepresented in Peace-Building Efforts in Ukraine and Myanmar
By Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security

Burma: Ethnic Cleansing, Repression, Denials
By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar: Reverse Laws and Practices that Perpetuate Military Impunity – new ICJ report
By International Commission of Jurists

Bangladesh and Burma: The Rohingya Crisis
By International Development Committee

Legal Analysis of Superior/Command Responsibility and Myanmar Army’s Admission of their Involvement in Heinous Crimes Which Constitute Genocide
By Legal Aid Network

ရခုိင္အခ်ဳပ္အျခာအာဏာက်ဆုံးျခင္းေန႔ (၂၃၃)ႏွစ္ေျမာက္ အခမ္းအနားႏွင့္ပတ္သက္၍ လူထုအားအၾကမ္းဖက္ၿဖိဳခြင္း သတ္ျဖတ္ခဲ့သည့္ ျဖစ္စဥ္အတြက္ ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္
By Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability

Statement on Three years of Uncertainty over Murder of Kachin School Teachers
By Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma

ကခ်င္ဆရာမေလးမ်ား အသတ္ခံရမႈ ၃ႏွစ္ျပည့္ၿပီျဖစ္ေသာ္လည္း အျဖစ္မွန္ကိုု မေဖာ္ထုုတ္ႏိုုင္ေသး
By Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma

UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar to visit Bangladesh and Thailand – 18 to 30 January
By Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Children of Myanmar Still Victims of Grave Violations Despite Measures to End Recruitment and Use
By Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Rohingya Repatriation Agreement Fails to Address Accountability and Safety Concerns
By Physicians for Human Rights

The Bangladesh-Myanmar Agreement on Rohingya Repatriation
By Refugees International

ရခိုင္ျပည္နယ္ ေျမာက္ဦးအၾကမ္းဖက္ ပစ္ခတ္ၿဖိဳခြဲမႈအေပၚသေဘာထားထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
By Students and Youth Congress of Burma

UNA ၏ ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္
By United Nationalities Alliance

UNHCR Notes Bangladesh, Myanmar Talks; Stresses Importance of Returns Meeting International Standards
By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UN Myanmar – Statement on Situation in Mrauk-U
By United Nations in Myanmar

Promoting Gender Equality in Myanmar: Policies and Strategies – “က်ားမတန္းတူေရး ျမွင့္တင္ျခင္းဆုိင္ရာ မဟာဗ်ဴဟာမ်ား မူဝါဒေရးရာ စာတမ္း”
By Women’s League of Burma and the Salween Institute for Public Policy

8 INGOs Summit Letter to the US President Regard with Sanctions on Myanmar for Rohingya Crisis
By 8 INGOs

Rohingyas’ Concerns over the Repatriation of Refugees from Bangladesh
By 21 Rohingya Organizations

reports

Reports

Women’s Peacebuilding Strategies Amidst Conflict: Lessons from Myanmar and Ukraine
By Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security

Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2018: Burma Events of 2017
By Human Rights Watch

Achieving Justice for Gross Human Rights Violations in Myanmar
By International Commission of Jurists


Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”

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