Thursday, October 8, 2015
Myanmar's ethnic rebels
As you can notice none of the groups above belongs to Muslims, who are unfortunately, the worst victims of on-going genocide inside Myanmar that are perpetrated by Buddhists with support from top to bottom within this ethnically fractured country of some 55 million people.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) earned independence in 1948 from Britain. However, it did not take too long for the country to go into chaos with the central government seen as unrepresentative of the aspirations of the ethnic communities that live around the periphery of the country. The ethnic minorities found themselves betrayed from the letters and intents of the Panglong Conference in the pre-independent British ruled Burma. They rebelled locking the country in a state of open insurgency.
The military has slowly fought since 1948 to push insurgent groups out of the nation's core Irrawaddy River Valley and to the borders of Bangladesh, India, China and Thailand. By 1949, meaningful government authority was confined to Mandalay and Yangon. From this disarray, the military was installed as a caretaker government in 1958, and then took power permanently in 1962 in a military coup that brought Ne Win to power.
Following decades of international isolation, compounded by Western sanctions in the 1990s, Myanmar finally transitioned to quasi-civilian rule following elections in 2010.
Today there are more than 20 ethnic armed groups strung out along the border, ranging in size from a couple of hundred fighters to more than 30,000. These groups control key resources and border crossings into neighboring markets. Ethnic militant groups are partly a function of Myanmar's geography: A horseshoe of rugged and heavily-forested highlands that surrounds the plains around the Irrawaddy River in the country's core. These mountains are home to a variety of ethnic groups (making up around 30 percent of the population) completely distinct from the ruling ethnic Bamar majority. The difficulty of extending infrastructure into these areas and a history of self-rule by these groups make it difficult for a central power to effectively govern.
The Myanmar government has been trying to manage this situation, partly through cease-fires and political settlements. A slew of bilateral agreements were made in the 1990s and early 2000s, but many broke down with the government changeover in 2011. Attempts to restore and build on those agreements are inevitably beset by tribulations. At the end of September, ethnic representatives met with government negotiators in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a last-minute go at finalizing the nationwide cease-fire agreement. The outcome has been mixed at best. Myanmar had already decided not to include three armed groups (Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta'ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army), which taken together include nearly 8,000 fighters. In the end, eight groups agreed to sign: Karen National Liberation Army, Chin National Front, Arakan Liberation Party, Pa-Oh National Liberation Organization, Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, All Burma Students' Democratic Front and the Restoration Council of Shan State. Four other groups have definitively refused to sign: the Shan State Progressive Party, New Mon State Party, Karenni National Progressive Party and (most important) the Kachin Independence Organization, which itself has around 10,000 troops and 10,000 reservists. These three groups are demanding that the militias barred from signing be allowed in.
Can the Center Hold?
You can read the full text of the report by clicking here.