Rain for Myanmar's peace parade

27 June 2013
In the media

A grand ceremony is expected to be held next month in the Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw, where a nationwide ceasefire with various ethnic resistance armies will be announced to an audience of United Nations representatives and other foreign dignitaries.

Published at
Asia Times

Ten of Myanmar's 11 major ethnic rebel groups who have signed individual ceasefire agreements with the government will be highlighted at the high-profile event.

The one main rebel outlier, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), has not yet reached a ceasefire agreement. The most recent round of talks between KIA and government representatives in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina held between May 28-30 failed to yield the deal government authorities anticipated. The two sides agreed only to a seven-point agreement stating that "the parties undertake efforts to achieve de-escalation and cessation of hostilities" and "to hold a political dialogue" - though no firm commitment was made concerning when such talks would commence.

The "peace" celebrations will nonetheless go ahead, government officials have indicated. But will the announcement really lead to an end to Myanmar's decades-long civil war and is it really the KIA who is the spoiler of the event? Behind the peace hype and reconciliation rhetoric lie fundamental problems which the different ceasefire agreements have wholly failed to address. All the ethnic armies and legally allowed ethnic political parties still demand that federalism replace the current military-dominated centralized power structure, which as constructed leaves only negligible powers to Myanmar's seven regions and seven ethnic states.

Efforts to establish lasting peace in Myanmar have been further hampered by the involvement of a host a rival foreign peacemakers with huge budgets, overlapping agendas and, it seems, little understanding of the complexities of Myanmar's ethnic problems. According to Tom Kramer, an analyst from the Transnational Institute, a Netherlands-based think-tank, who has studied the problem for years: The present peace process is top-down, lacks civil society involvement and still has to move from making new ceasefires to a political dialogue. Concerns and criticisms from local organizations on the peace process, including on the role of international organizations, have not been properly addressed and sometimes even ignored ... in the meantime economic reforms - especially the new land and foreign investment law - coupled with the new ceasefires have opened up the flood gates for local and international companies to enter ethnic borderlands and buy up land - pushing local communities off their ancestral lands. The experiences from the Kachin ceasefire - which were followed by large-scale unsustainable resource extractions - should serve as a clear warning signal.

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