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Ethnic Issues

Sai Wansai: Transnational Institute - 4 April 2016
While the first move of Aung San Suu Kyi has been to form a national reconciliation government, followed by restructuring, streamlining and planning so that her administration can function, the handling of the country’s faltering peace process has now risen to become one of the most urgent and essential challenges on the NLD's must-do list. Read more.....
Robert H Taylor: ISEAS 'Trends in Southeast Asia' No.3 2016

Spokespersons for the ethnic armed groups continue to speak the language of ethnic rights and a federal army, while the government talks about reaching material and administrative agreements and the army insists that there can only be one army. These debates echo the past, going back to the formation of Myanmar in the late 1940s.

In order to break the apparently endless debate about federalism, ethnicity, states and divisions in the Union of Myanmar, perhaps a new approach might be considered - taking federalism a step further to the seventy-four district levels of administration. As the ethnically designated armed groups operate in relatively small and localized areas, a solution that squares the circle between ethnicity and territory might have appeal.

The Irrawaddy - 28 March 2016
Weeks of political wrangling came to a head on Monday morning when about two dozen lawmakers from the Arakan National Party (ANP) walked out on a sitting of the Arakan State legislature in protest of the appointment of a National League for Democracy (NLD) parliamentarian, Nyi Pu, to the state’s chief minister post. Read more.....
The Irrawaddy - 25 March 2016

 An 11th hour decision by the outgoing Burmese government to grant citizenship to tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese living in northern Shan State’s Tarmoenye sub-township has raised eyebrows, with some questioning whether the move was politically motivated. A statement from Burma’s Immigration Department, dated March 11 but only posted online this week, announced that immigration authorities had granted full citizenship to members of the “Mong Wong” ethnic Chinese group in Tarmoenye, part of Kutkai Township, enabling them to vote and enjoy other rights previously withheld.

Under Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law, the group will be re-categorized as “Mong Wong Burman” and granted the pink-colored ID cards that confer full citizenship, after previously being identified as “Mong Wong Chinese” on temporary identity documents commonly known as white cards.

Derek Tonkin writes: The Irrawaddy report suggests that citizeneship for the Mong Wong has been on the cards for some considerable time and that it is more inept bureacracy than anything which has delayed their acceptance as citizens. They will presumably come under the "Shan" group, which already includes no fewer than 33 ethnicities, only one of which is actually "Shan". It is not yet clear whether the official list of 135 ethnicities first announced in 1990 is now 136.

Ashley South: Nikkei Asian Review - 19 March 2016

The writer reviews the situation with regard to the peace process at the present time of change in the Administration. He notes that:

“On the ground, the peace process has resulted in huge improvements in living standards of conflict-affected communities in areas where cease-fires are holding. Across southeast Myanmar, villages are seeing increased possibilities of movement and better livelihood options. For these villagers, the peace process is a very positive development.....

“In other parts of the country, including much of northern Kachin and Shan states, and parts of Rakhine in the west, civilian populations have experienced little respite. The Tatmadaw has launched new military campaigns against those ethnic armed groups that did not sign the NCA.....

“Is this Myanmar's new reality? A civilian government taking partial control over areas where cease-fires have been agreed to, while the Myanmar armed forces continue to operate by emergency decree and use of systematic violence in areas where cease-fires are not in place. If so, ethnic communities across much of the country will continue to suffer from violence and exclusion, regardless of any change of government in Naypyitaw.

“Another issue yet to be resolved is intercommunal violence, particularly the relationship between the majority Buddhist population and Myanmar's Muslims. The exact number of Muslims in the country is unknown, but when results of the 2015 census are announced later this year, they may show the Muslim population to be greater than expected.

“However, reactions to the census results could be manipulated by unscrupulous politicians to reignite simmering tension between religious communities. One of the greatest challenges facing the new government is how to deal with intercommunal violence -- a problem more intractable than conflicts with ethnic armed groups. While ethnic insurgency can, in principle, be resolved through negotiations between political elites, intercommunal violence is far uglier and intractable.

“As Myanmar enters a new era, there are many reasons to be optimistic - but there are also storm clouds ahead. If, however, there is continued progress through to the next election, in 2020, we will not have to look back at the previous half-decade as ‘golden years’, when there was still so much to hope and struggle for.”

European Union in Myanmar - 23 February 2016

The European Union and its Member States accredited to Myanmar/Burma are concerned about reports of intensifying military action and armed clashes in parts of Northern Myanmar.....

The EU urges restraint on all sides and calls for dialogue in order to immediately end hostilities and work towards genuine, inclusive and lasting peace. We also call on all conflicting parties to facilitate immediate humanitarian access to the affected communities to cater for urgent needs of civilians.

Derek Tonkin writes: Statements from capitals rarely have much impact on such events, local statements from embassies even less.

Negotiations with Ethnic Insurgents

"Arakan Army" involved in clashes

Transnational Institute - 17 December 2015

Key Points

• The victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the 2015 elections was a resounding mandate for democratic change after decades of military-dominated government.
• The scale of the victory in ethnic nationality communities across the country highlighted the hopes of all Myanmar’s peoples for the NLD to help achieve a new era of peace and democracy. Both domestic and international expectations are now high, and the incoming government will enjoy initial goodwill.
• Formidable challenges remain in key aspects of social and political life. These include transition from military-backed government, political reform and the agreement of a nationwide ceasefire that includes all groups and regions of the country.
• Despite the NLD’s success, concerns remain among different nationalities that, unless the NLD pioneers a political breakthrough, conflict and the marginalisation of minority peoples will continue. The perception is widespread that the present structures of national politics and Myanmar’s “first-past-the-post” electoral system do not guarantee the equitable representation of all nationality groups.
• In the coming months, the successful transition to a new era of democratic governance and the agreement of an inclusive nationwide ceasefire could provide the best opportunity for ethnic peace and deep-rooted reform in many decades. It is vital that the different sides work cooperatively together rather than seek selfadvantage.

Robert Taylor: Nikkei Asian Review - 4 December 2015

One of the hackneyed themes of contemporary Myanmar politics, repeated so often and so rarely questioned that it seems a truism, is the supposed conflict between the Burman majority and the various other ethnic groups lumped under the labels Kachin, Chin, Karen, Shan, Rakhine, Mon, and Kayah.  Fog of ethnicity weighs on Myanmar's future

A similarly repeated truism is that the central government and army are dominated by the Burman group (also known as the Bama or Bamar), which is set on obliterating the ethnic diversity of the country through a process known as Burmanization. These related themes are advanced to justify the persistence of nearly perpetual low-level guerrilla warfare between the central government and armed groups that adopt the names of the various ethnic groups. 

Can this simplistic account of Myanmar's politics be questioned? If so, how? Well, for one thing, the Nov. 8 elections which produced an overwhelming majority for the National League for Democracy, a party often described as an essentially Burman organization no different from the governing establishment it is to replace, suggests that ethnicity is not as salient in Myanmar's politics as these cliched themes suggest. Read more....

Adam Burke: New Mandala Inquirer November 2015

The 2015 general election results look similar to the results of the 1990 election, the last time that the NLD was allowed to stand. On both occasions, the incumbent military affiliated party was thrashed and the NLD won just short of 80 per cent of the seats. This time round, despite open elections for local parliaments and the spread of more freely expressed minority identity, ethnic parties’ performance was patchy at best. The
only exceptions to NLD domination were in Shan State, where various ethnic parties performed quite well, and in Rakhine State.

The reasons for this overall pattern relate to the strength of the NLD and the weakness of most ethnic parties. Many ethnic parties were unable to compete. If they are to prosper in future, they may need to form stronger alliances and build up their local networks. Unpredictable future factors include the possibility that ethnic armed organisations will seek to enter the local political arena if peace talks make headway. The striking success of the NLD and the failure of many ethnic parties may make them wary of agreements to replace armed struggle with peaceful democratic processes.

Positively, perhaps, the election results suggest that the broad goals represented by Aung San Suu Kyi were more attractive than the parochial interests of specific local groups. Minorities are not necessarily any more inward-looking than others in Myanmar. Most people in ethnic states do not live in isolated upland villages. Mass media, increased literacy in the Burmese language, and high levels of migration mean that many minority communities are engaged in the national and even international spheres.

Read full report

Anthony Davis: Bangkok Post - 17 November 2015
Far from the hoopla and euphoria surrounding Myanmar's national elections last week, it has been mainly business as usual for army units in the country's northern borderlands. 
Democratic Voice of Burma - 12 November 2015

In 2010, when the NLD boycotted a general election now considered as a sham, their ethnic partners followed suit. The refusal to run led to the splintering of many of the ethnic parties that had named themselves after Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. SNLD figures left to form the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party. A new Rakhine Nationalities Development Party split from the Arakan National League for Democracy. These rebels contested and won many seats in 2010, while the loyalists had to wait until the 2012 by-elections to get a foot in the door.

This time around, many expected Suu Kyi’s party to pay back its ethnic allies by not contesting their strongholds, leaving them to take the fight to the USDP. That didn’t happen. Instead, the NLD ran across the country, fielding individual ethnic candidates in their respective areas. The move has now paid off in a big way across the country.

The SNLD’s losing experience is one mimicked across Burma, indeed, it is the Shan party that may well wind-up doing best of all. The ANP has performed reasonably well in its home state, notwithstanding the ejection of its leader Dr Aye Maung from his constituency. It’s a wipe-out elsewhere. In Kachin, Karen and Mon states the major ethnic parties all failed to pick up more than four seats as of Thursday. The projections don’t look good either.

Ceasefire pact is 'historic gift': President
Myanmar Times - 16 October 2015
Leaders of eight armed ethnic groups yesterday signed a ceasefire agreement with the government and military that has been broadly hailed as an important step toward a wider peace settlement, even though two years of negotiations had failed to deliver a truly nationwide pact.

Global New Light of Myanmar - 16 October 2015

Extract: In his speech on the occasion, President Thein Sein said that “although some organisations are currently not ready to sign, the government decided to conclude the NCA with the vanguard group of organisations that were ready to proceed. However we will continue with our efforts to bring the remaining organisations into the process. The door is open to them. Since the NCA is based on the terms that these organisations have negotiated and agreed to, the implementation of the NCA is in accordance with their intent. If requested by the remaining organisations, the government will coordinate and facilitate their participation in the various stages of the peace process.”

China Daily (Xin Hua) - 15 October 2015
The Myanmar government and eight ethnic armed groups out of 15, involved in the peace deal with the government, initiated the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA) on Thursday, witnessed by local and international observers.

The signing of the NCA taking place at the Myanmar International Convention Center signals the near-end of more than six decades of civil conflict.

The eight armed groups are Kayin National Union (KNU), Kayin National Liberation Army(KNLA)-Peace Council, Pa-O Nationalities Liberation Organization (PNLO), All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF), Chin National Front (CNF), Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) , Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army (DKBA) and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) / Shan State Army-South (SSA-S).

Representing the government side in the signing were President U Thein Sein, two vice presidents Sai Mauk Kham and U Nyan Tun, Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing and his Deputy and Commander-in-Chief of the Army Vice Senior-General Soe Win, as well as speakers of both houses U Shwe Mann and U Khin Aung Myint.

Present on the occasion as invited international witnesses were from the United Nations, the European Union, China, India, Thailand and Japan. Other invitees included government officials, foreign diplomats representing 50 countries, political parties including the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and National Unity Party (NUP) as well as civil society organizations.

Extract: "Although some organisations are currently not ready to sign, the government decided to conclude the (agreement) with the vanguard group.” Thein Sein said in a speech at the signing ceremony. "We will continue with our efforts to bring the remaining organisations into the process. The door is open for them,” he said. “The road to future peace in Myanmar is now open.”
Extract: "The EU notes that not all ethnic armed organisations have signed the NCA today. It is important that ongoing dialogue with the groups that have not signed is prioritised in order to continue to build trust. We welcome the inclusion of these groups, as observers, in the next phase of the process."
Extract: "The signing of the text of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) by the government and eight ethnic armed groups is a critical first step in a long process of building a sustainable and just peace in Burma. We recognize that some groups were not able to sign today, and we understand and respect their concerns.. We welcome their commitment to continue discussions within their communities and with the government about the necessary conditions for signing at a future date, and we urge the government to engage constructively in a dialogue with these groups to pursue a more inclusive peace."
Myanmar Times - 12 October 2015
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is among leading opposition politicians who have decided against attending the grand signing ceremony of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement on October 15. A spokesperson for the National League for Democracy said the party leader had a prior election campaign appointment in Rakhine State on that day.

People close to preparations for the event said that the Nobel Peace Prize winner had earlier indicated her readiness to be present. They said her absence may have been driven by a desire not to take part in an event that could be used to burnish the electoral credentials of President U Thein Sein and his ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.

It is not yet clear how many other ethnic and party leaders will attend the ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw, which the Myanmar Peace Center says will bring together more than 850 people. A minority of ethnic groups will sign the “nationwide” accord following nearly two years of talks that ended up dividing the armed ethnic organisations. The NLD and other political parties were not part of the ceasefire process.

The eight ethnic armed groups expected to sign the accord include the Karen National Union, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army, the Chin National Front, the Arakan Liberation Party, the Pa-O National Liberation Organisation, the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front.

Myanmar Ethnic Peace Process: Two Important Studies 
Burma News International - August 2015

During the year under review, Myanmar’s peace process veered in one direction and then another, swayed by fresh outbreaks of fighting. A commitment to peace by all parties to the conflict and a willingness to compromise would help towards a negotiated settlement. If the two sides can narrow down their demands to the essentials likely to prevent large scale military offensives, they can then move on to discuss political and military issues of a more prickly nature which must be resolved if peace is to be enduring. Both sides have matured during the seventeen months of negotiations necessary to agree a so-called “final draft” of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. However, the draft drawn up conjointly by the Government and Ethnic Armed Organizations drafting teams has yet to be ratified by the assent of the policy-makers of the organizations concerned. 

Myanmar's Peace Process: A Nationwide Ceasefire Remains Elusive

International Crisis Group Asia Briefing No. 146 - 16 September 2015

After more than six decades of internal armed conflict, the next four weeks could be decisive for Myanmar’s peace process. The process, which was launched in August 2011, enjoyed significant initial success, as bilateral ceasefires were agreed with more than a dozen ethnic armed groups. But signing a nationwide ceasefire and proceeding to the political dialogue phase has been much more difficult. Four years on, with campaigning for the November elections already underway, a deal remains elusive. It is unclear whether a breakthrough can be achieved before the elections. Outside pressure will not be productive, but the progress to date needs to be locked in, and public international commitments to support the integrity of the process and stand with the groups that sign can now be of critical importance.

Myanmar Times - 28 September 2015
Leaders of some 20 ethnic armed groups from Myanmar are due to meet in Chiang Mai today amid divisions over whether to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government.
Pu Zing Cung, general secretary of the Chin National Front and a member of the groups’ negotiating team, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the focus of the talks, due to conclude on September 30, would be the issue of three allied armed groups involved in fighting in Shan State which the government wants to exclude from the accord.
President U Thein Sein stressed the urgency of signing a ceasefire agreement before the November 8 elections when he met ethnic negotiators in Nay Pyi Taw on September 9. The meeting was inconclusive and officials set the armed groups a deadline of October 3 to decide whether they intended to ink the accord, leaving open the possibility that only some factions would join the government in signing....

Pu Zing Cung said the ethnic groups wanted all factions to sign, including the three blackballed by the government – the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the ethnic Chinese rebels of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) fighting in the Kokang border area.

Derek Tonkin writes: The prospects for an NCA at some time during October 2015 do not look encouraging. An NCA would provide a tremendous boost to the election prospects of the governing USDP and it is unlikely that most ethnic parties would welcome this. Contrary to most analyses, I do not myself believe that all that much would be lost by deferring a signature until the new government is formed in February/March 2016, after the elections. An NCA then might be built on a more solid basis.

This would not be inconsistent with the view expressed in the 'Readout" of the meeting on 29 September of the UNSG's partnership group on Myanmar which noted: "In regard to the peace process, though key differences still remain, Member States welcomed the perseverance shown by all sides in their effort to stabilise a nationwide ceasefire, build trust and move towards the start of a meaningful political dialogue. All stakeholders were urged to remain actively involved in the next stage of negotiations." This would not suggest that partnership members are in any sense holding their breath in expectation.

Latest News and Views

Transnational Institute: Myanmar Policy Briefing No. 16 - September 2015
A comprehensive review of ethnic politics in Myanmar in the run-up to the November elections. "Although nationality parties are likely to win many seats in the polls, the impact of identity politics and vote-splitting along ethnic and party lines may see electoral success falling short of expectations. This can be addressed through political cooperation and reform. It is essential for peace and stability that the democratic process offers real hope to nationality communities that they can have greater control over their destiny." Read more.....
Robert Taylor: ISEAS Perspective - 26 June 2015
The confusion over the meanings of ethnicity which has vexed Myanmar politics since independence has its origins in the many misunderstandings which were perpetrated, unwittingly, by the Panglong Agreement and its subsequent interpretations. Written as a hastily agreed constitutional arrangement to ensure the unity of the entire colony prior to independence, it has been reinterpreted as a set of constitutional principles guaranteeing rights to ethnic groups. It did not and, in law, it could not. Continue reading.....
Hansard - 24 June 2015
Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the nationwide ceasefire talks in Burma, and the prospects for peace in the ethnic states, particularly Kachin state.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Conservative)
On 31 March the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team and government negotiators successfully agreed a draft text of the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA). Following this agreement, a series of consultations has taken place to discuss the detail of the Accord, including a meeting between 2 – 9 June in Karen State attended by over 100 representatives from 17 ethnic armed groups as well as UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Burma, Vijay Nambiar. As a result, amendments to the text were proposed, and the ethnic armed groups agreed to form a new committee, comprising more senior representatives, to engage in further negotiations with the Burmese government. Prospects for a NCA ahead of the elections in Burma scheduled for November 2015 remain uncertain. However, even in the absence of a NCA, we do not anticipate a return to widespread conflict. Bilateral ceasefires remain in place between the government and the majority of armed groups, and a timetable for further negotiations is being discussed. We remain actively engaged in the peace process and stand ready to provide whatever additional assistance is required.
Interview with Professor Robert Taylor - Mizzima Weekly 
Professor Taylor notes that "the question of ethnicity in Myanmar politics has obviously been revitalised with the return to open politics and a free press since 2010. Much of the discussion is highly emotional, not grounded in history, and conceptually misleading.....

"Ethnicity since independence has mixed into a political cocktail from which demagogues drink and politicians, rather than providing the public guidance and leadership, do little to drain off except by appeasement.....The issue of ethnicity in Myanmar politics is not now being resolved, but rather encouraged, thus detracting public attention from other concrete issues such as the economy  or administrative and legal reform."  Read on.....

Myanmar's Ethnic Parties and the 2015 Elections
Marie Lall, Nwe Nwe San,Theint Theint Myat and Yin Nyein Aye
European Union - International Management Group (IMG)
This report was conceived in light of  European Union (EU) programmes to support peace efforts and electoral processes in Myanmar, as part of the EU's Instruments for Stability (IfS) action in support of the peace process between April 2013 and March 2015.

The ethnic political parties were the first legitimate opposition to the Union Solidarity and
Development Party (USDP) dominated assemblies after the 2010 election.The purpose of the
research is to understand the role that ethnic parties play in Myanmar politics today, their views on the reform and peace processes, their thoughts about the Ethnic Armed Groups (EAGs), and the challenges they face for the 2015 elections in light of the NLD's re-entry into politics. 

Economist Intelligence Unit - 7 April 2015
This EIU 'Risk Briefing' concludes:

"Separate issues that are muddying the outlook include the long-term and understandable mistrust that the ethnic groups have of the Tatmadaw (armed forces), which has previously committed widespread abuses against minorities. This colours several issues, including the question of integrating ethnic fighters into the army.

"Moving forward, ethnic militia group leaders are expected to review the agreement, after which the government has said that a conference will be held with the aim of securing a final agreement. There is a chance that the process will move swiftly given the natural deadline of November's polls. The situation on the ground, however, highlights the volatility of the situation. Any process of political dialogue is inevitably going to have points of contention. At a very basic level, if the government is serious about a federal system, it is one that has to be inclusive, and as the situation currently stands, there are many ethnic groups that are disenfranchised.

"By the end of this year, the current work of negotiators will leave its successor with either a solid legacy on which to build Myanmar, or a major and continuing headache."

Transnational Institute - April 2015

Important reconciliation and progress has been started in national politics under the government of President Thein Sein. But as the countdown accelerates towards a general election later this year, there is a risk that political reform and ethnic peace are faltering. To avoid this, clear markers must be agreed of processes of democratic reform and ethnic peace that guarantee the rights and involvement of all peoples and parties.

Constitutional reform and nationwide peace will be essential, and it is vital that the conduct of the general election is free and fair to ensure momentum in political reform. An inclusive political dialogue must be fostered at the national level to move beyond the practice of different parliamentary processes and ethnic ceasefire talks that do not provide a political roadmap for all citizens.

Mizzima - 1 April 2015 

The Special Adviser on Myanmar to the UN Secretary-General Mr Vijay Nambiar has welcomed the “milestone” agreement on a text for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement drawn up by the Union Peace Working Committee and Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team for Myanmar on March 31. The text of his statement reads: 

"Today, on the 31st of March 2015, after more than a year of negotiations, the Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC) and Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) have agreed on the text of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) for Myanmar. For the government of Myanmar and 16 Ethnic Armed Groups to reach a ceasefire agreement after more than sixty years of conflict is a historic and significant achievement. The United Nations welcomes this milestone in Myanmar's history, and congratulates President U Thein Sein and his negotiators as well as leaders of the Ethnic Armed Organizations and the NCCT.

"As Observers to the process alongside China, the United Nations, through the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, have followed the proceedings closely and through difficult as well as lighter moments. Throughout, we have been deeply impressed by the hard work, true determination, genuine commitment and goodwill shown by the UPWC and NCCT. We are deeply honored and humbled to have been invited to observe the parties through their historic deliberations.

"The signing of an NCA is a first step towards a larger dialogue for settling the political and military issues that will pave the way for an inclusive and harmonious future for Myanmar. However it is a crucial first stage that must be crossed before embarking on the next chapter.

"Myanmar is still in a nascent stage of its transition. Today's agreement is a signal that new levels of trust, confidence and cooperation are possible between former enemies and that the seeds of change in Myanmar are beginning to sprout. 

"Today's achievement is also remarkable and unusual as a process completely initiated and executed by national stakeholders. While many concerns and difficulties will remain on the ground in Myanmar, this is a day to celebrate as a great achievement and as one that provides a solid basis from which to continue the hard work that will be necessary to achieve a genuine and lasting peace in the country. The United Nations will continue to support and work with the peoples of Myanmar."

Derek Tonkin writes: The draft ceasefire is the result of lengthy and complex negotiations. The Deutsche Welle commentary by Ms Phuong Nguyen is well worth reading carefully. She spells out the possible limitations of the agreement, and the steps which yet need to be completed. She writes: "We should be cautiously optimistic. The deal was only signed between the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents 16 ethnic armed groups, and the government's peacemaking team. Both sides attached great importance to the latest round of talks. But while the government indicated it was ready to sign the text into a nationwide peace accord, the NCCT calls this a provisional agreement that it still needs to take to the leaders of its member groups for their approval. Also, there were some armed groups that weren't at the table. In addition, the two sides got to this agreement partly by kicking some of the more controversial issues down the road."

It is easy to be cynical and to argue that there is no agreed cease-fire yet in place and that the draft agreement will collapse before it can be signed, which is expected in a matter of weeks. The international community has however given the draft agreement a very warm welcome and promised their full support. There is no illusion though about the difficult road ahead.

China and Myanmar. 'The Economist examines the Kokang crisis
Myanmar-watchers have grown used to a familiar refrain from the government: the peace process is working; a national ceasefire deal is just around the corner; except for a few holdouts, all sides are not only talking, but have agreed on almost everything, with just a few details remaining to be worked out. The Kokang fighting shows that those “details”—which include military and police reform, control over natural resources and regional autonomy for ethnic minorities—are proving intractable. Moreover, it is happening at a time when problems for the government seem to be spreading: this week saw a brutal confrontation between students and police at Letpadan, 140km north of Yangon. Read more.....
The conflict sheds light on the different priorities of Beijing and Yunnan. Although trade with Myanmar accounts for less than 1% of China’s total, it makes up 24% of Yunnan’s. Residents on both sides benefit from being allowed to move freely, but fighting jeopardises that. So local Yunnanese ought to have a strong incentive to end the fighting. At the same time illegitimate commercial activities conducted by Chinese companies in northern Myanmar—including illegal mining, logging and smuggling conducted under the noses of local officials—help to finance local militias. These illicit ventures are sources of conflict with locals. And they are at the root of Burmese accusations that China is supporting and arming the separatists. The government in Beijing could do more to clamp down on such trade. Read more.....


The Irrawaddy - 2 March 2015

The government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee will meet with the ethnics’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) in mid-March for the seventh round of official talks on an elusive nationwide ceasefire agreement. 

Both sides have agreed to meet in Rangoon from March 16, according to ethnic and government negotiators. ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
Global New Light of Myanmar - 13 February 2015 
We, the signatories to this Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation, pledge, in order to achieve lasting peace in Myanmar, to work together towards realizing the goals envisioned in this Commitment in the spirit of responsible action, transparency and accountability.

1. Aiming to safeguard sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity on the basis of the peace process; and building a Union based on democratic and federal principles in the spirit of Panglong and in accordance with the outcomes of Political Dialogue to ensure freedom, equality, justice and self determination for all citizens;

2. Striving together at the outset to conclude the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement without delay whilerecognizing that a nationwide ceasefire is vital for the political dialogue process;

3. Establishing a new political culture of ending long-existing armed conflicts and solving grievances through dialogue instead of resorting to force of arms; and striving together to promptly hold an all inclusive political dialogue process;

4. Working together to promptly draft the Framework for Political Dialogue after concluding the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and commencing political dialogue prior to the 2015 General Elections in accordance with the Framework on Political Dialogue;

5. Undertaking jointly to prevent armed clashes and confrontations between various armed groups and to refrain from taking actions or measures that will harm the peace process;

All signatories to this Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation promise to endeavour together for the success of the peace process in order to achieve peace and national reconciliation desired by all citizens.
Nay Pyi Taw
February 12, 2015
Xinhua - 1 March 2015

A senior Chinese diplomat on Sunday clarified China's policy toward its neighbor Myanmar since conflict in northern Myanmar has triggered rumors. 

In a written interview with Xinhua, Kong Xuanyou, director-general of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, denied any Chinese local authorities' involvement in the conflict.

China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, Kong said. No organization or person using Chinese territory would be allowed to undermine the China-Myanmar relationship and stability in border areas, according to Kong. He stressed that China respects Myanmar's sovereignty, territorial integrity.

Commentary: Xinhua - 25 February 2015
Proximity and ethnicity have bred misleading speculations about Chinese involvement in the ongoing conflict in northern Myanmar close to the bilateral border. Such allegations and accusations cannot hold water, as it would both violate China's basic foreign policy principle and harm China's national interests should Beijing thrust itself into the Kokang fighting.

China upholds non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, let alone military intervention. China has always respected Myanmar's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Even if there were indeed some Chinese nationals participating in the fighting, it would be only an individual act, to which the Chinese government is strongly opposed. As Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying has said, Beijing will never allow any organization or individual to use Chinese territory to undermine China-Myanmar relations or border tranquility. Read more.....

Yun Sun: The Irrawaddy - 18 February 2015
The author, a fellow with the East Asia program at the Henry L. Stimson Center and a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, analyses the complex situation in the Kokang region, and concludes that "while China is on Burma's side with regard to peace and reconciliation, Burma's own ability to manage the issue is a key factor in determining China's position. China may not like the border ethnic groups and their actions, but it will not adopt a policy that is aimed at their elimination. In other words, if the Burma Army cannot manage the country's own insurgency, China will not do the job for it either. Indeed, if the Burma Army easily loses Kokang to a thousand local rebels overnight, it does raise the question to everyone as to whether the Burma Army is the guardian of the nation and its territorial integrity, as it claims to be."
Derek Tonkin writes: This is far and away the best analysis of current events in Kokang, caused primarily by the return of a former unsavoury Kokang leader Peng Jiasheng to the Chinese-speaking territory and his attempts to regain power. Yun Sun's perception of Chinese interests and their likely response command respect. 
Myanmar Times - 13 February 2015
The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA) are fighting alongside the Kokang group to win back ground formerly held by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in northern Shan State.

Fighting flared on February 9 between the Tatmadaw and MNDAA remnants when Kokang soldiers attacked Myanmar military positions.

“While the state is making all-out efforts for reaching a nationwide ceasefire, the renegade groups of Kokang have ambushed the troops of the Tatmadaw,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar (GNLM) said.

On February 13, the GNLM confirmed heavy losses for the Tatmadaw, with 47 killed and a further 73 injured from February 9 - 12. 

Ethnic Federalism and the road to peace
Charmaine Craig: Dissent - Fall 2014
The involvement of Western powers and their narrative about Burma are as dangerous to the people of the country as dictatorship has been, because both can serve as a cover for the continued persecution of ethnic groups by the Burma Army. The West needs to exert diplomatic pressure on the Burmese government and insist that violence against ethnic groups is immediately addressed, that constitutional reforms allowing federalism are implemented, and that political dialogue with the various armed and unarmed ethnic groups be a precondition of nationwide ceasefire and broader diplomatic and economic engagement.

Latest News

Charlatanism of the KNU and the Tatmadaw
Kanbawza Win: Asian Tribune - 15 October 2014
Contemporary scholars, politicians, statesmen and laymen will be bewildered to find the word Charlatanism between the two antagonistic groups of the Burmese army known as the Tatmadaw and the current KNU (Karen Nation Union). But their actions and declarations clearly indicate their similarity even though they may be at each other’s throat for more than half a century. Continue reading.....

High stakes in Myanmar's peace process
Murray Hiebert and Phuong Nguyen: Asia Sentinel - 22 August 2014
A perceptive and succinct analyis of the ethnic peace process and how the West can assist, this article merits careful reading. The authors conclude:

"In the near to immediate term, it is important that Washington maintains and seeks to expand diplomatic support and assistance programs designed to help foster trust between Myanmar’s ethnic groups and the government, and empower civil society groups to fully participate in the country’s peace-building initiatives and future political dialogue. Myanmar ethnic leaders have said they would like to have U.S. observers, along with representatives from ASEAN, China, Japan, India, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations, present at the signing of the nationwide cease-fire accord, a call Washington should consider, assuming the government agrees to this grouping.

"Even if the nationwide cease-fire agreement can be reached before the end of the year, the next major challenge will be getting the political dialogue launched and allowing it to take root before President Thein Sein’s current term expires in early 2016. The road to achieving a lasting political solution to Myanmar’s ethnic conflicts will be long and difficult, and it is important that the United States and other countries that are serious about supporting Myanmar’s democratic transition channel as much attention and as many resources as possible to help ensure the peace process stays on track."

The nationwide ceasefire agreement at a glance
Aung Naing Oo: Myanmar Times - 30 July 2014
At 20 pages, with seven chapters and about 120 different points, it’s hard not to agree with the international conflict resolution expert who recently called Myanmar’s draft nationwide ceasefire agreement as the world’s lengthiest ceasefire deal.

Negotiating parties have spent the past nine months coming up with the current version of the agreement. At the beginning of the talks there were several different drafts. It took some time for negotiators to consolidate these into a single document, a feat achieved in April.

The nationwide ceasefire agreement is supposed to be a ceasefire text. To me, it is really more of a political document, and this may explain why it has taken some time to get to where we are now. Continue reading.....

Latest News and Views 

Myanmar President vows to continue to strive for peace
Xinhua - 1 May 2014
Myanmar President U Thein Sein vowed on Thursday to continue to strive for achieving internal peace and improving people's livelihood, saying the success of reform, which is being undertaken, depends on citizens respecting the rule of law and cooperating with the government. 

Citing the finalization of the first draft of a single text of the nationwide ceasefire agreement in early April, U Thein Sein underlined in his regular monthly radio speech to the nation that the move represented a step closer to peace, adding a nationwide ceasefire agreement can soon be signed.  

Touching on a March violence in the country's western state of Rakhine, U Thein Sein said some lawbreakers were responsible for the riot. "These events are universally unacceptable and should have never happened. We will not accept this kind of behavior and action against the offenders is being taken pursuant to the law," he said. 

 Latest News and Views

Amid delays, rivalries divide Burma's ethnic groups
The Irrawaddy - 7 February 2014

The government and ethnic rebel groups will not meet as planned this month for a nationwide ceasefire conference. The meeting has been postponed once again, to March, with ethnic leaders claiming they need more time to negotiate among themselves before presenting their draft ceasefire proposal.

Ethnic leaders say delays in the final stages are to be expected. But under the surface, rivalries between different rebel groups have slowed the process. Continue reading.....

Ethnic nationaliities offer hope for a nationwide ceasefire
Karen News - 26 January 2014
More than one hundred leaders from Burma’s ethnic armed resistance organizations gathered at Law Khee Lar, Karen State from January 20 to 24, 2014 to work out a plan for a proposed nationwide ceasefire agreement with the Burma government. The ethnic leaders met and discussed the future of Burma, including how to set up a federal army in the country. Dubbed a historic ethnic summit, it is a follow-up meeting of the Armed Ethnic Organization Conference held last month in Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization, in Burma’s north. Continue reading...

Norway-backed peace initiative 'probably' to end
Hanna Hindstrom: Democratic Voice of Burma - 12 January 2104
The Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI), a multi-million dollar scheme supporting humanitarian and peace efforts in Burma’s conflict-torn border areas, is currently undergoing an internal review, which is expected to conclude that there is no “added value” in its work, according to its lead consultant.

“In terms of MPSI we want to make sure whatever we do adds value, and there’s a clear sense that if there isn’t we won’t continue,” Charles Petrie told DVB, adding that it was “probably” going to end. He cited “more complex” local circumstances and an influx of other actors as reasons for the decision. Continue reading.....

Visit to the HQ of Shan State Army-South 
Global Times (Chinese) - 26 December 2013
“We hope that China will play a role in the peace talks between the Myanmar government and armed ethnic groups. China and Myanmar share a long border. Border stability is in China’s interest.” This is the hope of Yawd Serk, the leader of Myanmar’s Shan State Army-South and the chairman of Shan State Restoration Council. In the past, the Myanmar government has condemned SSA-S as a “terrorist, drug-trafficking organization”. But for the SSA-S, they are only fighting for the equality for the Shan people and the control of a peaceful region. 

In early December, reporters from the Global Times travelled 6 hours from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand to Loi Tai Leng, the headquarter of SSA-S located on the Thai-Myanmar border. The living conditions here are extremely poor, but Yawd Serk thinks they occupy an advantageous geographical location against the government military. The goal of SSA-S has shifted from independence to becoming a part of the Union. People in Shan State want peace, and the pace of the peace talks between the government and the armed ethnic groups could be faster. Continue reading in unofficial English translation..... 

Latest News

Ethnic Conflict in Burma/Myanmar: From Aspirations to Solutions
Seminar Report: Transnational Institute/Burma Centrum Nederland November 2015
In November, TNI/BCN hosted a two-day seminar, involving ethnic groups from different regions of Burma, on the theme of “Ethnic Conflict in Burma/Myanmar: From Aspirations to Solutions”. Those participating included 20 representatives from Burmese civil society, political and armed opposition groups.

The seminar focused on four main areas: political reform; moving from ceasefires to political dialogue; land rights and natural resource extraction; and ethnic identity and citizenship.

The seminar concluded that political transition continues to be military-dominated and top-down, with essentially the same ruling elite in political and economic authority as under the former State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) regime. Hopes remain that, through political negotiation, democratic reforms will be achieved which lead to just and inclusive solutions. But as the countdown to the 2015 general election begins, concerns are growing that essential reforms will not be delivered. Read the full report.....

Derek Tonkin writes: The report reflects the perceptions only of those who took part in the seminar and who mostly seem to have come from the Burmese Diaspora. The international community at large is criticised "for apparently accepting the 2008 constitution as the solution to the country's needs and challenges", for failing "to understand the nature of Burma's ethnic crises" and for other inadequacies relating to the forthcoming national census and international aid policies. UN agencies particularly come in for criticism, as does UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself and the Myanmar Peace Center. The international community would no doubt generally dispute this temperamental and jaundiced analysis, though the issues raised are very real and need resolution.

Negotiations between Government and Ethnic Armed Organizations

Myitkyina Conference: Press Release Government and Ethnic Parties - 5 Nov 2013
Laiza Conference: 7 Point Statement and  11 Point Common Position - 2 Nov 2013

Thein Sein calls for peace, insists on national unity
Mizzima - 30 October 2013
President Thein Sein called on leaders of ethnic armed groups to work with the government to ensure both national peace and unity in a letter to the gathering of the groups that began yesterday in Laiza. U Thein Sein said in the 29 October letter that the conference is critical. He said he supported a single, nationwide ceasefire accord as well as the adoption of a framework for building peace through political dialogue.

The conference, the first of its kind, is begin held in Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization. The KIO is sponsoring the conference, which aims to reach a nationwide ceasefire accord with the Union government.

Groups attending it include: the United Nationalities Federal Council, New Mon State Party, Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army, Palaung State Liberation Front, Karenni National Progressive Party, Karen National Union, Democratic Karen Benevolence Army, Restoration Council for Shan State/Shan State Army South, Abakan Liberation Party, All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, Pa-O National Liberation Organization and Karen National Liberation Front/Peace Council.

Myanmar's Shan see long path to peace
Larry Jagan: Asia Times Online - 6 September 2013

In an exclusive interview, Shan Lt Gen Yawd Serk predicted it would take at least three years to complete the first stage - a proper ceasefire agreement and an end to all fighting - and probably another six years before a final political solution could be achieved. This solution, Yawd Serk insists, would mean a new federal constitution that allows for self-determination in ethnic areas, the protection of ethnic rights and the preservation of ethnic culture.

"We want real peace, we want a political solution, and we want all ethnic groups to participate," Yawd Serk said, referring to the other ethnic armies that have fought for decades against the central government. "First the fighting has to stop and agreement reached on the areas each side controls."Continue reading.....

Federalism debate fractures Burma's armed ethnic groups
Hanna Hindstrom: Democratic Voice of Burma - 30 July 2013
Burma’s armed ethnic groups have fallen out over how to develop a federal union in the former military dictatorship, resulting in two rival conferences to discuss plans to end decades of civil conflict.

Inside sources say that a split has emerged between “hard-liners” and those who favour compromising with the government to amend the military-drafted 2008 constitution, which currently grants Naypyidaw control over ethnic minority territories.

The dispute has contributed to a major rift in Burma’s ethnic movement, culminating in Burma’s leading ethnic umbrella group, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)severing ties with the multi-ethnic Working Group for Ethnic Coordination (WGEC), which was set up to coordinate negotiations with Naypyidaw, in June.

The UNFC is currently hosting an ethnic nationalities conference in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, to discuss federalism and strategies for political dialogue. Meanwhile, the WGEC is planning a similar event in mid-August, which analysts say might “cause confusion” among the ethnic populations. Continue reading.....

Karen-Shan Alliance: The Lady too important as stakeholder to be mediator 
Shan Herald - 18 July 2013
A joint statement issued yesterday by the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), apparently in response to the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) proposal on Saturday, 13 July 2013, said mediation between armed ethnic groups and the Thein Sein government would not be fair if conducted by National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi because she is a key stakeholder in the peace process.

“The dialogue process in Burma is very complicated, with multiple stakeholders simultaneously involved. This is not conducive to use of a single mediator. To overcome this situation, the National Dialogue process designed by ethnic armed groups enables all stakeholders to address their concerns without the use of mediators. As the process matures, stakeholders can request to utilize mediators or facilitators for specific discussions. Normally, stakeholders do not act as mediators or facilitators,” read the statement.

Derek Tonkin writes: The Myanmar Government plans to invite all ethnic groups to a nationwide cease-fire ceremony in the near future. Competing interests have however made the task somewhat complicated. The UNFC is seen by some as a hard-line expatriate group seeking to exert a measure of control over the peace process, which is unlikely to be acceptable to the Government and in-country ethnic interests.

A tentative peace in Myanmar's Kachin conflict
International Crisis Group: Asia Briefing No. 140 - 12 June 2013
In its latest briefing, A Tentative Peace in Myanmar’s Kachin Conflict, the International Crisis Group examines the peace agreement that the Myanmar government signed with the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), the last of the eleven major armed ethnic groups to sign an agreement since 2011. This represents a major opportunity to secure lasting peace not only in Kachin State, but in the country as a whole. Yet, there will be major challenges in doing so.

This is a major step forward. Securing a sustainable peace will not be easy, and depends on more detailed negotiations in three main areas - force separation, a monitoring and verification mechanism, and a dialogue on political issues. The 30 May agreement is the beginning of a process of consolidating peace, not the end. Without further progress, a resumption of armed conflict is possible.

Derek Tonkin writes: There are some important judgements in this informative and perceptive analysis to which attention should be drawn:

  1. Tensions boiled over in late 2012 "after the regime took a series of confrontational steps towards the KIO". (Page 7)
  2. The meeting at Ruili on 30 August 2012 "turned out to be a disaster" when none of the senior KIO leaders attended. (Pages 9-10)
  3. The renewed fighting in late December 2012 "raised questions about the extent to which the President has authority over the armed forces", but "it is not clear that there is any significant divergence between the President and the military, much less that the military is actively disobeying the President's decrees……the President would have had difficulty preventing the military from taking action to secure its positions." (Pages 11-12)
  4. China "remained opposed to any US or UK involvement, but changed its stance on UN participation. (Page 17)
  5. "The level of attention now being given to the ethnic issue by the US, UK and broader international community is unprecedented." (page 17)
  6. "Beijing is resolute about continuing to block any substantive involvement of the US or the UK in what it sees as an issue relating to its border security." (Page18)
  7. "However, this agreement is a ceasefire in all but name." (Page 18)
  8. "The sale of jade - all of which is mined in Kachin State - is estimated to have reached as much as $10 billion annually, which would make it by far Myanmar's largest export commodity." (Page 19)

Kachin Peace Talks 

Colonialism and ethnic conflict in Burma
New Mandala - 16 April 2013
Sai Latt argues that: "As a first step, Burma needs a group of Burmese (however one wants to define this) who dare to challenge ingrained state ideologies and constitutive elements that perpetuate colonial attitudes and actions. This means, challenging the very notions of the state, nation, nationalism and sovereignty, and addressing the actions of those in power at different sites and scales. Without it, all the talk about peace is just a waste of time and energy; it will fail one day or another." Continue reading.....

Powers seek influence in Burma's conflict
Bertil Lintner: The Irrawaddy - 23 March 2013 
"The Chinese intervention in Burma’s civil war casts doubts on the feasibility of foreign-mediation efforts - as does the proliferation of Western organizations which have turned peace in Burma into a virtual industry and, for some, a lucrative business. The Norwegian-initiated Myanmar Peace Support Initiative has been followed by similar efforts by the Switzerland-based Center for Humanitarian Dialog, the Nippon Foundation of Japan and EU-sponsored initiatives through the Myanmar Peace Center, an entity close to the Burmese government. The Institute for Security and Development Policy, a Swedish think tank, also has EU funding for “national reconciliation and peace-building” with ethnic groups, while Pacta, a Finnish NGO, looks for opportunities as well. The Phnom Penh-based Center for Peace and Conflict Studies is involved, too, as are at least six individuals with their own private agendas. Millions of dollars and euros are at stake in these efforts." Read more.....  
Transnational Institute : Burma Centre Netherlands - February 2013
This hard-hitting report expresses concern "that the potential for foreign investment to play a positive role in the lives of people in the borderlands may well be squandered. Some of the key challenges to overcome in ensuring the equitable and sustainable economic development of border areas include the lack of an adequate framework for regulating foreign investment, the inability of the government bureaucracy to manage such inflows of capital, an untested legal landscape, land grabbing, increased militarisation, environmental degradation, the exclusion of communities from participation in development, inadequate compensation, forced labour, bribery and continuing armed conflict." Read more…..

The New Light of Myanmar - 6 January 2013
President Thein Sein meets  Chairman of Karen National Union General Mutu Sae Phoe and party in Nay Pyi Taw. The President said that he is committeed to bringing about lasting peace during his term of office.

Jayde Lin Roberts -  University of Tasmania
A paper presented at a conference at the University of  Hong Kong in June 2012 

Chinland Guardian - 10 December 2012
Unofficial translation of the text of various agreements made between the Chin National Front and the Myanmar Government on the Chin national issue, reconciliation and human rights, military affairs, development, and social and cultural matters.
Le Monde Diplomatique - December 2012

Years of guerrilla warfare produced excellent Kachin, Kayin and Shan military leaders but they turned out to be poor political strategists, unable to agree a common vision for a peaceful Burmese political union. As for the Bamar, few are prepared to question the dominant view of the Burmese nation as an exclusive, almost endogamous, racial community, whose religion is Buddhism. Rethinking the idea of the nation is essential, especially since the ethnic question is linked to territory, and therefore the economy. 


Ethnic key to US role in Myanmar
Asia Times - 10 October 2012
Tim Heinemann, a retired US Army Office who does volunteer work among pro-democracy groups in Myanmar, argues that: "The unfortunate reality in Myanmar today, as in the past, is that ethnic peoples as a political, economic and military power force are still a source of fear to Burman elites, whether they are reform-minded or staunchly old guard. It is now regarded as bad form to mention this fact in the face of the honorable reform efforts of Thein Sein and his quasi-civilian, Suu Kyi-endorsed regime. Yet this uncomfortable fact remains and must be addressed if there is ever to be lasting peace and stability in Myanmar. As the US continues to experience in Southwest Asia, the game to be understood, played and sustained is one of fostering a dynamic balance among all stakeholders in any given society."
The Irrawaddy - 9 October 2012
11 Central Committee members of the Karen National Union have agreed to meet up sometime soon at the Thai-Burmese border to try to settle their differences. One faction will include Mutu Say Poe, David Taw and Roger Khin with the support of Brigades 1, 4, 6 and 7. The other faction is headed by KNU President Tamla Baw, Vice-President David Takapaw, General-Secretary Zipporah Sein, Joint-Secretary 1 Hla Ngwe and Joint-Secretary 2 Daw Lay Mu. They are backed by Brigades 2 and 5. Brigade 3 seems to be sitting on the fence while events unfold, said KNU sources.

The disagreement within the Karen leadership is believed to have begun during the second round of peace talks in Pa-an between the government’s peace delegation and the KNU central committee led by David Taw on 12 January when a ceasefire was signed.

Derek Tonkin writes: This internal dissension is unwelcome to the Government who wish to move on from the cease-fire agreement signed in January. At root would seem to be a clash of personalities.

Myanmar will make 'all necessary compromises' for peace
Reuters - 21 September 2012
Myanmar is willing to make "all necessary compromises" to broker peace with ethnic minority rebel groups, including amendments to the constitution on power and resource sharing, the government's top negotiator said at the United Nations on Friday. Aung Min, a minister in President Thein Sein's office, is pursuing complex political negotiations with at least 10 ethnic minority rebel groups with which the government has agreed ceasefires after decades of conflict under military rule. Read more.....

Voice of America, Washington - 18 September 2012 
The article includes a videocast of the interview as well as a transcript.
On the 'Rohingya' issue, Suu Kyi commented:
"Communal tensions are very, very difficult to dissipate in a short time and there have been communal tensions in Burma for decades.  The latest episodes of violence erupted because of, from my point of view, from a lack of rule of law. It all started with a criminal act, and if action had been taken quickly, if justice had been done and seen to be done, it would not have escalated in the kind of almost full-scale violence that it did. We believe as a National League for democracy that human rights must be protected by the rule of law, and there can never be occasions where human rights can be neglected or ignored or the rule of law set aside." 

Karen News - 6 August 2012
Following yesterday’s meeting at the Aye Chan Pyo guesthouse in the Burma border town of Myawaddy, Burma government and Karen National Union (KNU) representatives will meet for three days beginning on the 27th August in Hpa-an to discuss a ‘ceasefire code of conduct’ between the two sides armies.

Yesterday’s two-hour long meeting was attended by the KNU general secretary Naw Zipporah Sein, Padoh Saw Thawthi Bwe, Naw May Oo and Saw Aung Win Shwe and the government’s delegation was led by Railways Minister U Aung Min, Immigration Minister U Khin Ye, U Soe Thein and the Karen State Minister,U Zaw Min. In addition to the government delegation, ‘peace mediators’ with links to the business and lobby sector included Dr. Kyaw Yin Hlaing, U Hla Maung Shwe, U Tin Maung Than from Myanmar Egress Company, U Ngwe Soe, U Ko Ko Maung and his wife Ma Su from Dawei Princess Company attended yesterday’s meeting.

Suu Kyi and the contradictions of State
William Lloyd-George - The Diplomat Blog - 30 June 2012
The writer, a noted free-lance journalist based in Thailand, examines ethnic problems facing Suu Kyi in Myanmar. He reports that: "As a result of Suu Kyi’s lack of condemnation, the Kachin community decided to boycott a celebration between all ethnic groups in the U.K. on Suu Kyi’s final day. 'We have nothing to celebrate, our people are dying, and starving; we should be condemning the military regime, not dancing and singing. There is still a lot of work to do, it is not yet time to rejoice,' said Ko Nawng, a Kachin student studying in London."     

"The Kachin are not the only community in the U.K., or back in Burma, who are unhappy with Suu Kyi. To voice their disappointment with Suu Kyi’s opinion on the sectarian violence taking place in Arakan State, the Rohingya community also boycotted Suu Kyi’s farewell event. 'We are not happy with the way Suu Kyi has spoken about the situation,' says Tun Kin, Director of the Burmese Rohingya Organization in London." Read more.....

Recent Reports 

New hopes for Myanmar peace talks: experts 
Agence France-Presse - 10 May 2012
A bold move by Myanmar's president to take charge of peace talks with ethnic rebels has revived hope of an end to a war in the far north perpetuated by mutual distrust and vested interests, experts say. Conflict between Myanmar's army and ethnic rebels in Kachin state has raged for a year, displacing around 50,000 civilians and casting a shadow over hard-won government ceasefires in other parts of the country. The reformist regime has now overhauled its negotiating team, putting the president at the helm of the process and removing some elements of the previous delegation seen by Kachin rebels as linked to army hardliners.

Experts Nicholas Farrelly (Australian National University), Win Min (Vahu Development Institute in Thailand) and Richard Horsey (independent analyst) express their views on these welcome developments.

Burma: From electoral authoritarian to democratic regime?
Shan Herald - 9 April 2012
Sai Wansai, General Secretary of the Shan Democratic Union, reflects on recent dramatic changes in Myanmar and concludes that: "All in all, the prospect of democratisation and achieving peace have never been so good for the past few decades. In practical terms, as many analyses have pointed out, the smooth process of democratisation will hinge on whether the newly elected MPs will be treated fairly in the USDP dominated parliament, continuing reform process leading to a free and fair election due to be held in 2015, ethnic conflict resolution and the degree of press and opinion freedom of expression be further improved to an accepted international standard."

Sai Wansai reveals: President Thein Sein "reportedly said, during his meeting with the Karen National Union (KNU) delegation on 8 April in Naypyitaw, that he considered the KNU as his brethren [rather] than enemy and that the constitution could be amended to give a fair share of political decision-making power for all the non-Burman ethnic groups. This is a far cry from the successive military regimes’ unspoken “total elimination” doctrine, which is deeply rooted in the military mindset."

Latest Developments               

Ending Burma's conflict cycle? Prospects for ethnic peace
TNI Burma Policy Briefing No. 8 - February 2012
Since the end of 2011, Burma/Myanmar’s government has held peace talks with all major ethnic armed opposition groups in the country. The talks represent a much needed change from the failed ethnic policies of the last decades. They are a first important step by the new military-backed Thein Sein government, which came into power in March 2011, towards achieving national reconciliation and peace in the country, which has been divided by civil war since independence in 1948. By February 2012, initial peace agreements had been reached with most ethnic armed opposition groups.

However, in order to end the civil war and achieve true ethnic peace, the current talks must move beyond establishing new cease-fires. It is vital that the process is followed by an inclusive political dialogue at the national level, and that key ethnic grievances and aspirations are addressed. Failure to do so will undermine the current reform process in the country and lead to a continuation of Burma’s cycle of conflict. 

Myanmar peace can be reached within three months
Reuters - 15 February 2012
Peace with the rebels, most of whom demand autonomy under what they call a "genuine federal system", has been set by the United States and the European Union as a condition for lifting sanctions on the former Burma, an underdeveloped but resource-rich country that has wilted under international isolation and inept army rule.But Aung Min said the government's motive was not the lifting of sanctions. Nine of 16 rebel groups had signed ceasefire agreements with the government and he expected six more deals to be reached within a few months, including with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of the biggest groups, which the Myanmar military is still fighting.     

Interactive Myanmar Ethnic Map
The Stimson Center is a non-profit, non-partisan institution devoted to enhancing international peace and security.

Myanmar Government and Karen National Union sign pact
Channel News Asia - 11 January 2012
Myanmar's government and one of the country's most prominent ethnic rebel groups signed a ceasefire on Thursday after decades of fighting, the latest in the country's apparent bids to reform. A delegation of ministers from the capital Naypyidaw and senior members of the Karen National Union (KNU) signed the pact in Hpa-an, the capital of eastern Karen state, scene of one of the world's longest-running civil wars. "The president has said we brothers have been angry at each other for 63 years and he asked us to give the KNU what they want. That's why we came here," said Immigration Minister Khin Yi before the pact was signed in front of reporters. 




Lee Jones 1