Burma's Cease-fires at Risk

Consequences of the Kokang Crisis for Peace and Democracy

15 September 2009

In August the Burma army occupied the Kokang region after several days of fighting, ending two decades of cease-fire with the ethnic minority group. The resumption of fighting in northern Burma raises speculation about the other cease-fires. Tensions are rising and the cease-fire groups have put their armed forces on high alert.

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in Kokang was the first of over 15 armed opposition groups to conclude a cease-fire agreement with the military government. The fighting forced 37,000 people to flee across the border to China, and killed an estimated 200 civilians.

The resumption of fighting in northern Burma raises speculation about the other cease-fires. Tensions are rising and the cease-fire groups have put their armed forces on high alert. They are preparing for battle but say they will continue to seek political change through dialogue, and will not fire the first shot.

Instead of isolating and demonising the cease-fire groups, the international community should engage with them involve them in discussions about political change in the country.

Ethnic conflict must be resolved in order to bring about a lasting political solution in Burma. If ethnic minority needs and goals are not addressed peace and democracy are extremely unlikely to be achieved in Burma.

September 2009

About the authors

Tom Kramer

Tom Kramer (1968) is a political scientist and with over 15-years of working experience on Burma and its border regions, which he has visited regularly since 1993.  

His work focuses on developing a better understanding of the drugs market in the region as a whole, the relationship between production and consumption, and alternative development (AD). Together with the Drugs and Democracy Programme, Kramer has created a regional network of local researchers, and is also carrying out advocacy towards policy makers in the region for more sustainable and human drug policies.

Since 2005 Kramer also works on Afghanistan, with a focus onthe relationship between drugs & conflict, and the involvement of western security forces in counter narcotic activities. Apart from his work for TNI, he is also a writer and freelance consultant, specializing on ethnic conflict and civil society in Burma. He has carried out field research and written reports for a wide range of international NGOs, institutes and UN organisations.

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