The Times They Are Not Changing

“As ever, it is civilians who bear the brunt of the accompanying abuses that the Myanmar military soldiers inflict on the local populations. Furthermore, they do so with impunity. Documented for decades, yet without any real change, the Myanmar military which commit rape and sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, torture, forced labor and many other forms of violations against local ethnic populations, escapes justice.”

A new decade has begun in Myanmar[1], yet the same problems that have blighted the country since independence, ethnic inequality, Burmanization, and military attacks in ethnic areas remain. Renewed fighting in Karen State, continuing fighting in Shan and Arakan States, and the struggle for ethnic nationalities to assert their identity have all been present in the first two weeks of this year. Yet the powers in Naypyidaw remain stuck on the same track, pushing a broken peace process and blaming ethnic groups for continued failures.

At the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) held in Naypyidaw on 8 January, 2020, which was attended by leaders of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatory ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), the government, and the Myanmar military, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi put blame on the EAOs for the failure of the peace process. In her opening remarks, she stated, “Concerning the case of having more armed conflicts, we would like to remind you of the fact that taking advantage by means of stronger armed forces or playing with the fancy of finding other new solutions will never bring solutions to the problems of our country.” The meeting, unsurprisingly, ended without substantive progress.

Yet for EAOs, it is difficult to reconcile this blame with the attacks and military expansionism of the Myanmar military. On 8 January, 2020, in northern Shan State, the Myanmar military attacked a training camp of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), while in Rakhine State, the Arakan Army released a breakdown of clashes of the past 12 months, amounting to nearly 700.  In Karen State, on 2 January, Myanmar military soldiers entered Karen National Union (KNU) 5th Brigade territory in Papun, and began firing, leading to clashes. This is a continuation of problems whereby the Myanmar military is attempting to build an access road between two villages which were previously inaccessible. Despite their attempted justifications of the road for development purposes, it is clear that it is for military purposes, and furthermore, is a clear violation of the NCA that the government is pushing.

As ever, it is civilians who bear the brunt of the accompanying abuses that the Myanmar military soldiers inflict on the local populations. Furthermore, they do so with impunity. Documented for decades, yet without any real change, the Myanmar military which commit rape and sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, torture, forced labor and many other forms of violations against local ethnic populations, escapes justice. The Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand (KWAT) documented several cases in 2019 of “torture, killing and shelling of civilian targets” in northern Shan State where, as their newly-released report states, “clearly, justice is not being served under Burma’s military justice system.”

State authorities, meanwhile, continue to employ policies of Burmanization at the expense of non-Burman ethnic peoples’ rights and existence. The annual Kachin State Day celebration caused controversy as local organizing authorities insisted on using Burmese language terms to describe the day rather than Kachin language. In Karen State, Myanmar soldiers removed a Karen flag that local villagers had raised. These incidents are reminiscent of the previous controversies under the NLD Government, such as the naming of bridges and erecting of statues of the founder of the Myanmar military, General Aung San, over local preferences for ethnic nationality figures.

It has become clear that Daw Aung Suu Kyi’s Government is not able to find peace with EAOs in Myanmar. The Government continues to push its Burmanization policies while simultaneously, the Military launches its offensives. Yet Daw Aung Suu Kyi continues to blame EAOs for failures in the peace process. Furthermore, the nationwide ceasefire agreement, as well as the series of 21st Century Panglong Conferences have not resulted in any tangible progress.This is true for both ostensibly ceasefire areas, such as Karen State, or those in Kachin, Arakan or Shan State, in which EAOs are still not part of the NCA. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi pledged that “we all share the common goal, which is to build the Democratic Federal Union founded on the national equality and national unity.”  Yet equality does not come from forcing legitimate political actors to compromise, either through force or through state-sponsored policies of ethnic discrimination. A new decade has begun, and a new start is needed for this stalled peace process based on mutual respect and trust, in which genuine compromises are made, and structural change is effected. Otherwise, ethnic people’s dreams of equality, self-determination, and federalism, face another decade of struggle for them to be realized and peace for all peoples of Myanmar will remain a distant aspiration.

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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

Civil Society Organizations Welcome Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v Myanmar) and Provisional Measures The Gambia has Requested at the International Court of Justice

By 8 Civil Society Organizations

ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတမြန်မာနိုင်ငံ၏ အစိုးရအား ဂမ်ဘီရာမှ အပြည်ပြည်ဆိုင်ရာတရားရုံးတွင် တရားစွဲဆိုထားမှု နှင့် ဂမ်ဘီယာမှ တောင်းဆိ

By 8 Civil Society Organizations

“ေျမာက္ဦးလူသတ္ပြဲ” အစီရင္ခံစာ သတင္းထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

By All Arakan Students’ & Youths’ Congress

Western Union Drops Military Myawaddy Bank As Its Agent

By Burma Campaign UK and International Campaign for the Rohingya

No Justice for Ongoing Burma Army Crimes in Northern Shan State Briefing Paper by the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

ရှမ်းပြည်မြောက်ပိုင်းတွင် ဆက်လက်ဖြစ်ပွားနေသော မြန်မာ့တပ်မတော်၏ ရာဇဝတ်မှုများအပေါ် အမှန်တရား ဖော်ဆောင်ခြင်းမရှိ

By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

(၈) ကြိမ်မြောက် JICM အစည်းအဝေးသို့ တက်ရောက်ခြင်းနှင့်ပတ်သက်၍ ကေအဲန်ယူ-ကရင်အမျိုးသား အစည်းအရုံး၏ သတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Karen National Union Headquarters

မန္တလေးတက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားသပိတ်နှင့် ပိတ်ဆို့တားမြစ်ခြင်းများအပေါ် သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Kayah State Students Union

ဒေသခံကျေးရွာလူငယ်တစ်ဦးအားလက်နက်ဖြင့်ခြိမ်းခြောက်၍ကိုယ်ထိလက်ရောက်စော်ကားမှုအပေါ် သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Kuki Youth Network

အခြေခံပညာကျောင်းများ၏ ပညာသင်ကာလ မတ်လကုန်ထိ သတ်မှတ်ခြင်းအပေါ် ပြင်ဆင်မှုမပြုပါက အစိုးရ၏ ၂၀၂၀ ရွေးကောက်ပွဲအား ကူညီလုပ်ဆောင်ခြင်းမပြုဘဲ ဆန့်ကျင်သွားမည်ဖြစ်ကြောင်း သဘောထားကြေညာချက် ထုတ်ပြန်ခြင်း

By Myanmar Teachers’ Federation

Youth for a New Society & Doa-A-Yae Welcome the Application of the Genocide Convention and Provisional Measures The Gambia Requested at the ICJ in the Case of the Gambia v Myanmar

By Youth for a New Society and Doa-A-Yae

reports

Reports

မြောက်ဦးလူသတ်ပွဲ – ဒီမိုကရေစီခေတ်တွင် ခြောက်လှန့်ဆဲဖြစ်သော နယ်ချဲ့တစ္ဆေ

By All Arakan Students’ & Youths’ Congress

လွှတ်တော်သက်တမ်း (၄၅) လ အတွင်း လွတ်လပ်စွာထုတ်ဖော်ပြောဆိုခွင့်ကို ချိုးဖောက်သည့် လွှတ်တော်ကိုယ်စားလှယ်များ၏ တရားစွဲဆိုမှုများ

By Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization

The Tatmadaw’s Complaints Violating Freedom of Expression Under Current Government

By Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization

No Justice for Ongoing Burma Army Crimes in Northern Shan State

By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

ရှမ်းပြည်မြောက်ပိုင်းတွင် ဆက်လက်ဖြစ်ပွားနေသော မြန်မာ့တပ်မတော်၏ ရာဇဝတ်မှုများအပေါ် အမှန်တရား ဖော်ဆောင်ခြင်းမရှိ

By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand


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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