Analysis: Can Burma negotiate with ethnic rebels for genuine peace?
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Analysis: Can Burma negotiate with ethnic rebels for genuine peace?

The government of Burma has released a number of statements indicating its willingness to reach an agreement with ethnic armed groups and political opponents, both domestic and exiled. Unfortunately, those offers have been considered contradictory.

Ethnic minorities have been suffering through five decades of brutal military maneuvers in the name of national unity. Attacks on these rural civilians continue on a regular basis. There is a constant demand from Burma’s ethnic groups to enjoy equal political, social and economic rights. The Constitution has to guarantee the rights of self-determination and of equal representation for every ethnic group in the Parliament. It is also required to include provisions against racial discrimination.

Peace may not be established if the government and its troops hesitate on making a genuine decision to reach a total end of civil war as well as total pulling out armed forces from the ethnic territories.

As people throughout the country denounced war in favor of genuine peace, some groups of people launched a peace march toward Laiza, the HQ of the Kachin Independence Organization. Peace marchers said in their statement that Burma needs a lasting peace to start a tripartite political dialogue in relation to various representatives of ethnic nationalities plus democratic forces and the Burmese military.

In the statement, they urge the government to set a date for a forum where equal rights and autonomy of ethnic nationalities will be discussed.

According to Kachinland News, Peace-Marchers of Myingyan, a town in the Mandalay Division, arrived in the Kachin administrative capital of Laiza on 13 March at 2 pm. Peace-Marchers were stopped at Lajayang by Burmese army on 9 March and waited for  authorities’ permission for five days to enter Laiza city by sleeping on the road sides and fasting in protest of the blockage by Burmese soldiers.  The soldiers finally removed the barrier to cross the creek in the early morning of 13 March, said a local resident.

In fact, Peace-Marchers began their peace journey on 7 February, 2013 at Myingyan. It took 34 days for them to reach to Laiza. Laiza residents, KIO officials and ABSDF troops welcomed a total of 54 participants, including 9 monks, 11 women and 34 men.

Thant Zin, head of the peace-marchers, said “W, Burmese think that Burmese army’s activities were nothing to do with us. Even though, we too are responsible to help solving the injustice. We will donate 14.8 millions kyats to IDPs via KIO officials.”

The peace marchers originated from 15 different towns in Mandalay Division, Sagaing Division and Kachin State and they urged in their statement both government and Kachin troops to end hostilities. They also urged respect for and recognition of the suffering of local Kachin civilians. They demanded reconstruction of the native communities by using psychological and physical healing as necessary.

The second group of peace-marchers arrived in Laiza on March 18. They began their journey from Yangon on Jan 21. One hundred thirty peace-marchers including 16 monks and one nun traveled 56 days on foot to reach Laiza in favor of lifelong peace. Peace-marchers were welcomed and greeted by thousands of Laiza residents and IDPs, KIO/KIA personnel and its allied troops from ABSDF, Palaung, Ko Kang and Arakan Army as they entered Laiza city on 18 March, Kachinland News said.

Yan Naing Htun, leader of the group, said, “Our main demand is to end civil war. It’s required to restore peace not only in Kachin state, but also in the whole country”.

Another group of peace activists led by a famous song-composer and guitarist Ye Lwin and former Capt. Nay Myo Zin arrived in Laiza on 15 March. They encouraged local residents and ABSDF troops by singing songs and making donations, Kachinland News quoted a resident.

During the June 2004 National Convention, 13 cease-fire groups submitted a political proposal demanding their equal rights to the plenary session. But the junta’s National convention convening committee rejected the proposal by reasoning as an inappropriate time and situation to be accepted at the plenary session. When the 2008 constitution came out as a text, none of the proposed political aspirations counseled by the ethnic representatives was included.

Aung San Suu Kyi supports all equal rights for the ethnic nationalities, while the military leaders are unwilling to do so. The military inflexibly declines to work together with Aung San Suu Kyi who continues collaborating with the ethnic political parties and cease-fire groups. To the military autocrats, allowing the ethnic minorities to enjoy equal political, social and economic rights is a risk that could lead to ‘non-disintegration of the union’.

Nevertheless, the NLD and its ethnic alliance parties strongly support equal rights to ethnic minorities that will guarantee peace, stability and prosperity of the country.

Even though some limited ceasefire deals are made between the rebel groups and the government, there has been little real progress on flawless peace.

It seems the military-backed government has been attempting to obtain more international recognition through make-believe peace-talks with the ethnic rebels. In contrast, Burma Army launches offensives against the ethnic armed groups frequently in order to control resource rich ethnic areas.

In reality, the ethnic people’s voice for autonomy is not a new one but already mentioned in the 1947-Panglong agreement. Many ethnic leaders asserted that they don’t have self-confidence in the new 2008 constitution. They believe that it will not produce a true federal union since the Burmese military take 25 percent of all seats in the existing parliament.