Myramar CountryThe Myramar Land
Who' s struggling in Myanmar and why
MARCH 17 Myanmar's federal and National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) - an association that represents 16 of the country's ethnical armed forces - have gathered for peaceful negotiations in Yangon, the country's largest town and trade-capitol. It is the 7th round of official peacemaking discussions, despite the fact that the leaders of both sides have had more than 200 informal meetings in recent years.
Discussions are aimed at a country-wide cease-fire (bilateral cease-fire has already been arranged between the regime and most ethnical armed forces, although they have a bad practice of breaking up). Renegotiators are always interested in telling journalists that there are few differences of opinion and that a domestic deal is on the way.
As the Rangoon negotiations resumed, severe clashes in the isolated north-east of the nation continue; almost 200 people are said to have died and as many as ten thousand have been driven out since the beginning of the 9 February war. Ever since becoming independent of Britain in 1948, the country's large number of indigenous minorities, which make up more than 30% of its total populations, have been struggling quite consistently against the federal administration (and sometimes against each other).
Underwritten by Aung San, head of the country's independent movements (and founder of Aung San Suu Kyi, a member of parliament and long-time democratic activist) and representing Kachin, Chin and Shan, the agreement pledged extensive local self-government to the country's indigenous minority groups, saying that a "separate Kachin state....desirable".
has not kept either of those pledges. A number of indigenous ethnical armed forces finance themselves through illicit activity (deforestation, drugs manufacturing, arms trafficking, "taxation" of locals), but they have their origins in these ruptured pledges. Myanmar's current chairman, Thein Sein, says he wants a truce and policy discussions to shape the countrys futures until November when the election is due.
However, there are still problems, especially with the armed forces (the federal administration wants to merge ethnical forces into a unified nationwide army), the scrutiny of nature and the degree of independence to be given to ethnically divided states. Recent upheavals began when a long-time Kokang insurgent commander started surprising assaults on Burma's armed forces around Laukkai, the Kokang region's capitol in the far north-east of the nation, near the China frontier.
At first, the regime was against negotiations with the Kokang, but their opposition could weaken. Even though the regime has described the dispute as small and lonely, it seems to be intensifying. The most disturbing is perhaps that it has attracted other ethnical forces with long-standing complaints against the federal administration, with the Kachin, Palaung and Arakan included.
Simultaneously, Burma's junior troops met with student supporters of educational programs in Burma's core country. Burma has never had a powerful federal administration, and what is now taking place in the northeast is the task of state construction. It has gone as far as it can, with ambiguous pledges of further measures; overcoming the impasse between the administration and the last remaining ethnical armies requires genuine compromises that both sides have not yet been prepared to make.
Should this inflexibility continue, what is going on in Kokang could extend to the remainder of the state.