Burma needs to end ethnic wars for genuine changeBy Zin Linn Feb 16, 2012 11:48AM UTC
This February is the 65 anniversary of Burma’s Panglong agreement which guarantees to form a democratic federal union. The agreement has been ignored by the military leaders as they did not support ‘Federalism’ since the 1962 military coup. The Panglong Agreement was signed on Feb. 12 1947, between General Aung San and the leaders of Chin, Kachin and Shan ethnic groups guaranteeing to establish a genuine federal union of Burma.
However, the civil war that made the country of inferior quality has been going on and on for the past six decades. Although the government has been attempting through two peacemaking teams, the key ethnic rebel groups – Karen National Union (KNU) and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) – are still unconvinced of the plan for political settlement.
The ethnic armed groups do not completely trust the government’s peace talks. The fact is that while offering a peace proposal, the government has been increasing its deployment of armed forces in the conflict zones. Besides, Burmese army soldiers are on the loose and committing crimes and human rights abuses in the ethnic territories.
Moreover, the difficulties of ending the war against the KNU and the KIO are intertwined with the natural resources available in the respective ethnic states. The Myitsone dam venture and the Shwe-gas twin pipeline development projects are connected to the Kachin warfare and Dawei deep sea-port multi-billion mega projects need security guarantee by the KNU.
Additionally, the government wants to show the international community that their peace process is progressing well. By doing so, the regime could earn trust from Western democracies and sanctions may lift at the same time.
According to Reuters, the Burmese government expects to reach ceasefire deals with all of the country’s ethnic minority rebel armies within three months before starting a process of political dialogue towards “everlasting peace”, according to its top peace negotiator Aung Min, a retired general and minister for rail transportation.
It was difficult to gain the trust of the ethnic minority factions, Aung Min said, but most were sincere about peace and some leaders had stayed with him at his home in Naypyitaw.
However, the second week of February seemed more of a skirmish between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and government armed forces, even though there were reports about ceasefire or peace talks next week, according to Kachin News Group (KNG).
On 9 February, Burmese soldiers and armed units from the KIO’s military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), exchanged gunfire in two different places near the 800km Shwe-gas and oil pipeline venture,Kachin News Group reported. Namtu Township under control of the KIO’s 8th Battalion was also the site of combat on 8 February in the Bang-Wa area.
On 8 February, there was armed conflict in the Manje (Mansi) township in southern Kachin State. KIA’s Battalion 12 defended against government forces from Light Infantry Division No. 99 for nearly three hours. The battle took place in an area beyond Mong Hkawng. A strength of two hundred Burmese army columns attempted to advance on the Kachin positions, quoting KIA officers based on the front line KNG said.
At the beginning of this week, fighting broke out near the KIA’s Battalion 9 base in Daklek Bum mountain, situated between Kutkai and Nampaka next to the Mandalay-Muse Chinese border trade route. At least five Burmese soldiers from the Nampaka-based Infantry Battalion No. 123 died in action and more than seven appear to have been seriously injured during clashes, according to witnesses reports.
In addition, more than 20,000 combat soldiers from nearly 200 battalions have been deployed to the Kachin frontline, the biggest military maneuver in Burma’s long-lasting civil war,reported Kachin News Group. Several Kachin citizens think that the reason for renewing the war after a 17-year ceasefire is the desire for natural resources in the state by the Burmese military-backed government.
Despite the fact that Burma’s President Thein Sein has issued an instruction twice to Burma’s commander-in-chief to halt the offensive against the KIO, the war continues and inhabitants continue to run for their lives.
According to Reuters, Aung Min declined to comment on the conflict in Kachin State. The Kachin offensives launched by the Burmese army are still raging on despite orders to stop fighting by the president.
The government has reached temporary ceasefire agreements with 9 ethnic rebel groups. Some armed ethnic groups are still to be discussed, including the KIA. The KIA is the second strongest armed ethnic group in military-ruled Burma. It has five brigades. Four of them are based in Kachin State. There are about 30 battalions, with over 30,000 fighters- including regular and reserved forces.
Most political analysts believe stopping the aggressive wars on ethnic people is the most important issue to be addressed by the new Thein Sein government if it wants to build the nation to become an economic tiger in the region.