Peace Donors Must Hold Myanmar Accountable to International Humanitarian Law

The renewed offensives against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), which started with heavy attacks during the holiday season in December 2017 has resulted in more human casualties and further displacement in a region with very little humanitarian provisions. The Myanmar[1] Army’s attacks, which included a series of air strikes, led to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and local villagers having to flee their homes and are surviving in fear under a precarious humanitarian situation in temporary shelters in Sumprabum Township, northern Kachin State.

Yet despite the damaging impacts on ethnic communities resulted from the Myanmar Army’s attacks, including humanitarian aid shortages and civilian casualties, Western donors have continued to put their faith in the one-sided, non-inclusive, Government-led peace process. Furthermore, they have pressured organizations such as the KIO to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA). In other parts of the country where ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) have signed, the NCA has failed to provide the mechanisms to provide justice and safety to civilians in conflict-affected regions. Thus, the political aspirations of ethnic nationalities to achieve federal democracy have become firmer; and all this should be taken as clear signal that alternative to the NCA is needed.

Following last week’s announcement that the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) would become signatories to the NCA, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) issued a statement and 8 point proposal which criticised the NCA and the Myanmar Government’s continuation of its over-reliance upon the agreement as the only avenue for peace-building. In the statement, the UNFC stated, “Long-lasting and durable peace cannot be established in the country through coercive means. Holding blindly the NCA approach only and walking in the worn-out path of coercion, it will continue to be stuck in the evil rut. A Union based on the federal and democratic systems can be established only through essential and meaningful political discussion and dialogue.”

“Long-lasting and durable peace cannot be established in the country through coercive means. Holding blindly the NCA approach only and walking in the worn-out path of coercion, it will continue to be stuck in the evil rut. A Union based on the federal and democratic systems can be established only through essential and meaningful political discussion and dialogue.”

It is clear that meaningful and inclusive dialogue needs to be held in order to have a strong and cohesive peace agreement. In a classic tactic of divide and rule, the departure of the NMSP and LDU from the UNFC makes this all the more unlikely and becoming signatories of the NCA will not change the fact that this flawed agreement and subsequent 21st Century Panglong conferences have not yielded meaningful progress towards achieving a sustainable peace in Myanmar. Furthermore, with the Myanmar Army’s increased attacks in Kachin State, this has consequentially led to a further eroding of trust between ethnic communities and the Myanmar Government leading up to the 3rd 21st Century Panglong conference, which had been delayed till next month.

The 3rd round of the delayed 21st Century Panglong Conference, still reeling from the announcement of non-attendance by one of the largest EAOs, the Karen National Union, looks highly unlikely to be a success. Moreover the push for the next round of the Panglong Conference seems ill-considered in the midst of offensives in Kachin State. If it wants to show its genuine commitment to the peace process the Myanmar Army must halt its offensives in Kachin State as well as other ethnic areas including northern Shan State and allow unhindered access for humanitarian aid to reach IDPs. The peace donors must take responsibility to ensure that the peace process gets on the right track by convincing both the Government and the Myanmar Army to change the discourse of the one-sided peace agenda and revise the process to ensure that it is inclusive and with mutual respect and recognition for establishing a federal democratic union that guarantees equality, self-determination of ethnic nationalities and uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law.

The peace donors must take responsibility to ensure that the peace process gets on the right track by convincing both the Government and the Myanmar Army to change the discourse of the one-sided peace agenda and revise the process to ensure that it is inclusive and with mutual respect and recognition for establishing a federal democratic union that guarantees equality, self-determination of ethnic nationalities and uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law.

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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

Bangladesh/Myanmar: Postponing Returns Arrangement Provides Temporary Relief for Rohingya Refugees
By Amnesty International

ASEAN MPs Emphasize Need for Urgent Regional Action on Rohingya Crisis as They Conclude Fact-Finding Mission
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

India and Japan: End Support for Rohingya Repatriation
By Burma Campaign UK

Malaysia: Revoke Military Awards Given to Min Aung Hlaing
By Burma Campaign UK

Myanmar/Bangladesh: Prevent Premature Repatriation, Ensure Rights for Rohingya
By Fortify Rights

Myanmar: Investigate Deadly Crackdown Against Rakhine Protesters in Mrauk-U
By Fortify Rights

Burma/Bangladesh: Return Plan Endangers Refugees

By Human Rights Watch

UNHCR Steps up Call for Unhindered Access in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State
By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Position Statement on Signing NCA
By United Nationalities Federal Council (Union of Burma)

NCA လက္မွတ္ေရးထုိးေရးႏွင့္ပတ္သက္၍ သေဘာထားထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္

By United Nationalities Federal Council (Union of Burma)

Statement on United Nations Participation in Myanmar Government Meetings on Health Services on 21 January in Sittwe
By United Nations in Myanmar

Merkley, Young, Kaine, McCain Introduce Bipartisan Resolution Condemning Burmese Ethnic Cleansing, Calling for Safe Repatriation of Rohingya
By US Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Todd Young (R-IN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ)

Civil Society Groups Urge the EU to Take Stronger Steps in Response to the Rohingya Crisis
By 21 Civil Society Organisations

21 Civil Society Organisations from Inside and Outside Myanmar Letter to EU
By 21 Civil Society Organisations

reports

Reports

Summary of Situation Update for December 2017
By Burma Human Rights Network

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

Natural Resource Federalism: Considerations for Myanmar
By Natural Resource Governance Institute

Urgent Humanitarian Update for Kachin State January 23, 2018
By Joint Strategy Team

Urgent Update on Humanitarian Situation in Kachin State
By Joint Strategy Team


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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