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Deciphering Myanmar’s Peace Process – A Reference Guide (2014)

By Burma News International  •  May 5, 2014

front_01The political sensitivity and scale of the peace negotiations and conflict have again posed a major challenge in collecting complete and accurate data for this book. While we have received the generous support of insider sources for our data, this remains far from gaining a complete picture of the myriad components of Myanmar’s peace process. We have also tried to the best of our ability to provide overview statistics that give a sense of the scale and impact of developments occurring over the past year. However these numbers are based on media reports that are usually unable to cover all events, and statistics quoted in the news and different official sources more often than not do not match up. Therefore most of the information and data recorded in this book are estimates at best. Diagrams, graphs and maps aim primarily to provide a framework in which to understand the many aspects of peace and conflict. As this book covers events in 2013, the year has been omitted in most dates (i.e. Day Month). For major events that occurred at the beginning of 2014 or references to events from previous years, the year has been included in the date. Due to unforeseen delays, the book was unable to publish by February as originally planned but the authors have tried to provide major changes up until the end of March 2014.

Executive Summary

Myanmar’s peace process in 2013 experienced twists and turns as conflict persists alongside developments in peace talks. The commitment to peace from both sides and willingness to make compromises by softening demands, has ensured negotiations have not only stayed on track but made a major breakthrough with the near completion of a single text nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA). After two years of peace talks that began under the newly reformed government, the negotiation strategy of both sides have matured. Instead of making outright demands, the two sides agree to begin talks on common points before moving towards more sensitive issues of political and military affairs.

The historic Laiza conference that brought together all major non-state armed groups (NSAG) to discuss a government draft of a NCA in early November, marked a major turning point in strengthening and streamlining the ethnic armed groups’ negotiation position. The Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) was created as a negotiation team to handle all negotiations for the NCA with the government team. Instead of the government’s initial plan to negotiate a ceasefire with individual groups, the focus has now turned to signing one “single text” ceasefire among all groups. To resolve resistance on the part of several groups to sign a ceasefire first before completing political talks, the ethnic side has compromised by accepting a government draft that includes the agenda for political talks within the NCA. This helps to guarantee a continuation of negotiations for the much-desired goal of ethnic selfdetermination after signing. The positive response made at the second ethnic conference at Law Khee Lar (20-25 January 2014) , creation of a joint Government-NSAG ceasefire drafting committee and frequent meetings with the government side, signals that the two sides are moving closer to signing a NCA. Nevertheless the need for many more rounds of negotiations has perpetually pushed the government’s proposed signing date back indefinitely.

The terms to reintegrate NSAGs and assist conflict affected communities, signed at the state and union level peace agreement beginning late 2011, have already started making important headway which supports the overall movement for peace e.g. legalisation of NSAGs, trust building, ethnic rights and resettlement. Assistance from the international community has played a crucial supporting role in producing these “peace dividends” but must guard against ignoring the core political issues that continue to drive the conflict. The marked improvement of everyday life for post conflict communities is a clear sign of the progress made in this respect. However without solving political issues of self-determination, many remain sceptical about the government’s sincerity and fear a return to conflict.

Despite the major developments on the peace negotiation front, the persistently high level of conflict in Kachin and Shan states are a cause for worry. NSAG reports that the Myanmar military has not changed its aggressive policies to wipe them out, has only fueled the ethnic side’s distrust of both the government and peace process as a whole. Communal violence that began in the Western state of Rakhine in 2012, spread throughout the country and caused a rapid rise in religious radicalism as demonstrated by the growing popularity of the protective Buddhist 969 movement. The ongoing violence related to ethnic and communal conflict has not only created new IDPs and prevented returns of existing ones, but threatens to slow or even reverse the positive reforms made in the country as a whole. The growing rate of opium production and trade is another contradicting outcome of the peace process that exposes yet to be identified holes in the peace efforts.

Much more still needs to be done to understand and address the root political causes that drive these conflicts. With the increasing integration into the international community and as the ASEAN chair in 2014, Myanmar is more enthusiastic than ever to make up for damage done by decades long conflict to catch up with global standards.

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This post is in: Peace and National Reconciliation

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Deciphering Myanmar’s Peace Process: A Reference Guide