The peace process in Burma is almost two years old yet despite the initial optimism over a series of initial ceasefires signed, the situation has largely stagnated over the past 18 months. The ceasefire agreements remain in the earliest stages with their fragility being exposed by regular fighting in Shan State while occasional skirmishes occur in Karen and Mon States. In Kachin State, the conflict has escalated dramatically and there is still no ceasefire agreement between the Burma government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
This paper is an analysis of the current situation with recommendations to the parties concerned. It is based on interviews with representatives of ethnic non-state armed groups (NSAGs), community-based organizations and civil society groups. On a state visit to the United Kingdom in July, President Thein Sein stated, “Very possibly, over the coming weeks, we will have a nationwide ceasefire and the guns will go silent everywhere in Myanmar for the first time in more than 60 years.” There is a significant gap in the pronouncements of the Thein Sein government and the realities of the ground situation in Burma’s ethnic areas: this paper seeks to explain that gap. The reality on the ground is that despite the much lauded reform process, the Burma Army, which still has disproportionate, institutionalized power in Burma, continues to wage war against ethnic NSAGs and commit human rights violations. The impetus for this conflict is the desire to maintain full control over the abundant natural resources found in ethnic areas in the context of the opening up and marketization of the economy, thus significantly increasing investment, actual and potential, in Burma. Steps toward a sustainable solution to this decades old civil war are thus hampered by a resource hungry and completely unreformed and unchecked Burma Army. Until a political settlement is reached that curbs the power of this institution and implements an amended political system that guarantees equality for ethnic nationalities, Burma’s peace process will remain fragile.Armed Conflict, Burma Partnership, Burmese, Human Rights Violations, Peace Process