Burma Peace Question: The President, The Soldiers and The Ethnic RebelsBy Zin Linn Aug 09, 2012 7:52PM UTC
Why is it so difficult for Burma to reach its objectives in the peace-process? The country has been at civil war since independence was declared in 1948. The cost of the civil war pulls Burma down into an abysmal gorge of poverty. Furthermore, the war turned the nation into one of the world’s most impoverished nations. Burma’s admittance to Least Developed Country status by the UN-OHRLLS in 1987 brought to light its economic bankruptcy.
Under British administration, Burma was the second-wealthiest country in South-East Asia. It had been the world’s largest exporter of rice. Burma also had a wealth of natural and labour resources. It produced 75% of the world’s teak and had a highly literate population. The country was believed to be on the fast track to development, David Steinberg, a distinguished Professor of Asian Studies at Georgetown University, said in one of his research papers.
After decades of military dictatorship, Burma became known as a natural gas and teak seller, and its socioeconomic conditions went downhill under the soldiers’ unprofessional management. The military’s monopoly worsens public poverty, while the military leaders and their cronies exploit the country’s abundant natural resources. From 2010-11, the state properties, especially real estate, were transferred to relatives of military authorities under the guise of a privatization policy. This widened the gap between the military-backed privileged first-class and the ordinary population.
After President Thein Sein took office, the quasi-civilian government looks as if ignoring its own promises – good governance, national reconciliation, poverty alleviation, etc. – made during the presidential inaugural ceremony. The president needs to stop civil war against ethnic rebels to implement good governance, national reconciliation and poverty alleviation. His government must also honor ethnic people’s equal rights and self-determination so as to stop the war.
How much time does President Thein Sein need to create national reunion, a transition to democracy and full respect for human rights? The cost of further delay will be paid in thousands of innocent lives, lost opportunities and prolonged civil war. If the government has a true political reform plan, it should first declare a one-sided ceasefire to show benevolence towards war victims and innocent civilians. The government must also take into consideration that this war is actually a waste of the country’s manpower as well.
Most suspicious is the apparent fact that the Burmese Army does not recognize the government’s peace-making process. The army has been launching a military operation against the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ in the Loi Ye mountain range, Namzang township since 30 July, according to SSA source, Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.).
The campaign was launched by the Faikhun (Pekhon) based Military Operations Command (MOC) 7, most of whose units are based either in Kayah or on the Shan-Kayah border. Light Infantry Battalions 422 (based in Mongpai, Kayah) and 425 (based in Banyen, Shan-Kayah border) are reported to be among them.
Meanwhile, a team of the SSA forestry officials led by Sai Leng was also attacked on 31 July by an unidentified Burmese unit near Nawng Ler, southwest of Mongpan, where the MOC 17 is based.
“We have lodged protest with U Aung Min (Vice Chairman, Union Peacemaking Work Committee), and demanded an explanation as well as an immediate end to the hostilities,” said Lt-Gen Yawdserk, leader of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), the SSA South’s political wing.
The group had reached a ceasefire agreement with Thein Sein Government on 2 December. Since then there were more than 27 clashes between SSA and the Burma Army. The two sides are scheduled to hold a 4th formal meeting this month, according to the Shan Herald Agency for News.
In addition, according to the Karen News, skirmishing between the Karen National Liberation Army and the government’s Border Guard Force broke out on August 5, in Mae Seik village, Papun Township in northern Karen State. Four BGF soldiers were killed and two KNLA soldiers were wounded.
The conflict took place on the same day as the Karen National Union delegates and government representatives met in the Burma border town of Myawaddy to outline details concerning negotiations on a ‘cease-fire code of conduct’. Naw Zipporah Sein, secretary of the Karen National Union, told Karen News that the incident might be caused by a ‘weakness of command’.
According to the Kachinland News , a fierce battle took place on 3 August between KIA’s 15th Battalion and Burmese army’s 319th LIB at Lung Rawng Kawng junction near Tapein power plant. Another battle took place the same day near Loije hill between KIA’s 27th Battalion and government army’s 320th LIB.
On 4 August, KIA’s 15th Battalion under the 3rd Brigade thwarted the advancing governmet army’s 237th LIR near Chyahkan Dap village. On the same day, KIA’s 5th Brigade soldiers fought against Burmese army’s 320th LIB between Mung Mu and Nawng Nang village, Kachinland News reported.
In fact, human rights violations of Burmese soldiers in ethnic states are serious breaches of international laws. It is also the duty of the current government to provide humanitarian assistance to thousands of war refugees and internally displaced populations in various ethnic states.
One of the biggest problems in Burma is the armed forces’ failure to recognize truces with ethnic rebels – truces that were entered into by the army’s own government. It is not clear whether the government is saying one thing and doing another, or the soldiers themselves are going against their head of state.