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.
A briefing paper jointly published earlier this month by the Netherlands-based think tank groups has asserted that new ceasefires that have been signed since 2011 have further facilitated land grabbing in conflict-affected areas where large development projects in resource-rich ethnic regions have already taken place.
Positive political changes in Burma – including the release of 1,500 political prisoners – have unfolded rapidly since a flawed election saw ex-general Thein Sein come into power in 2011. But reform is “still at a tentative and early stage”.
Ceasefires have been agreed; the NLD has elected representatives in the national legislatures; Western sanctions are being lifted; and the World Bank and other international agencies are returning to set up office in the country. Such developments are likely to have a defining impact on ethnic politics, which remains one of the central challenges facing the country today.
Burma is in the midst of its most important period of political transition in over two decades. TNI and BCN hosted a conference to look at the challenges and opportunities in five key areas: politics, ethnic relations, the economy, social and humanitarian affairs, and the international landscape.
The breakdown in the ceasefire of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) with the central government represents a major failure in national politics and threatens to escalate to serious humanitarian crisis if not immediately addressed.
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.