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.
Three years ago, a quasi-civilian government took office in Burma, shedding the country’s pariah image and introducing democratic reforms that have won widespread praise. Yet events last week have raised doubts about the government’s reformist credentials and its commitment to a genuine democratic transition.
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.
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”.
Human rights groups are concerned that Myanmar’s first census in 30 years will inflame ethnic tensions, further marginalise ethnic groups and be used as a tool for repression - especially against stateless Rohingya Muslims who are already denied basic human rights.
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.
Local organisations have adopted different strategies towards the authoritarian government in Burma. Focussing on the dynamics of civil society Tom Kramer looks into the possibilities and risks of growing international interest in engagement with these groups.
At a time of critical political transition in Myanmar, failure to address the root causes of armed conflict and to create an inclusive political process to solve nationality grievances is only likely to have a very detrimental impact on the prospects for peace, democracy and development
The 2014 Population and Housing Census is the most significant ethnic and political boundary-making exercise since 1931, however its colonial-era designations and simplifications are likely to raise ethnic tensions at a critical time in the peace process.
For many citizens a countdown begins to a crucial general election later this year, with warnings of a halt in reform momentum and a more troubling reality behind many of the socio-political changes in the country.
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.