Myanmar Peace and Ceasefire-101

Do you want to understand the underlying currents and forces behind ceasefire and peace processes in Myanmar?

The single most important factor in understanding peace-building and ceasefire negotiations in Myanmar is how the most powerful stakeholder, namely the Burmese generals view peace with the country's 2 dozen ethnic resistance movements.

For Naypyidaw's militarists, peace is neither a value nor a goal in and of itself.  In fact, peace is the last resort.  It is a means to their strategic end.

Recently, Naypyidaw's point man on 'peace', ex-military intelligence officer and now 'super-minister' Aung Min in President's Office and his deputy Immigration Minister ex-Brigadier Khin Yi were seen on YouTube trying to rush the ethnic resistance leaders who were openly skeptical of Naypyidaw's talk of peace and nationwide ceasefire during their most recently meeting at Holiday Inn, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Unlike Norwegian and other international 'donors' involved in peace and ceasefire processes, ethnic armed resistance leaders no longer take at face value Naypyidaw's words of peace, building a Union Army, changing the Constitution - in principle.  The irrefutable fact is that no sooner had the bilateral ceasefire agreements signed had Myanmar Army goes on offensive while it typically busies itself with fast-bringing in reinforcement, stockpile munition and weapons and scoping out the ceasefire territories.

A senior Karen resistance leader General Baw Kyaw Heh put it pointedly: "... the [ceasefire] discussions have been stopped and business development and other issues have taken over the agenda. At the same time the government is expanding their administration areas – overlapping with our administration territory. And the government is taking advantage [of the ceasefire] by carrying out its military activities and by preparing its military.  For over a year now the Burma Army has taken advantage [of the ceasefire], they continued to transported their military supplies, rotate their troops, modify and fortify all of their bases. They also built and repaired their helipads. In Mutraw district alone, since the cease-fire, the Burma Army has created 14 new military bases.”

The Shan resistance has a different kind of concern: the right of the Shans to do business in their ceasefire areas as Sao Yawdserk, leader of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), had "lodged complaint (to a Minister for Myanmar President's Office Aung Min) that there had been no progress on business front".

The Kachin resistance, that had maintained written ceasefire with its estwhile enemy - Myanmar military regimes - for 17 years before the latter broke the ceasefire unilaterally, having underestimated the resolve and miscalculated the kachin's war preparations, now keeps it priorities straight.

Lieut. Col. Gawlu La Awng of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) remarked, "The military issue (or business concern) is not the prime issue. Our issue is for all those political issues to be solved."?
To counter these military, business and political concerns, Naypyidaw has pooled and deployed a group of 'Stalin's idiots', that is, quasi-intellectual and -technocratic spin-meisters who accuse the KIO of 'confusing' the Kachin people in 'very illiterate areas' and flat-out deny any wrong-doings in the Kachin war zones.

Myanmar Peace Center's Nyo Ohn Myint and Andrew Lain, former political exiles who were former Rangoon University history tutor and Indiana University-trained legal expert, share the view that "(Canada's) government, plus the American government, plus the United Nations - everyone is misinformed (by the Kachins about the alleged human rights abuses and war crimes by Myanmar troops."

But the misinformation and concealed agendas are typically sourced within President Thein Sein's Office which in turn is directed and manned by former military intelligence officials the likes of Ministers Soe Thein, Tin Naing Thein and Aung Min.  

Of late Myanmar regime has made two strategic moves that are clearly designed as an integral part of its strategy to bring the Kachin resistance, one of the strongest and most determined anti-Bama imperialist forces, to its knees:

1) the recent push by "Peace Beggar" (or Nyein Chan Yay Thu Daung Zar in Burmese), ex-Brigadier Aung Min whose official title is Vice Chairman #2 of the Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) plays good cop with the armed resistance organizations for the formal signing of nationwide ceasefire in October, which is 'to be graced by diplomats and international representatives'. The undeclared, but detectable logic behind this push is to isolate the Kachin Independence Organization (additionally, to put out the spin that peace is around the corner in order address business risk concerns commonly held among international business circles);

2) the talk of opening the Sino-Burmese borders (the Kachinland and Shanland border with China on the East) for tourists: the rationale is to attract Chinese tourists which will persuade Beijing to put serious pressure on the Kachin Independence Organization to accept 'peace on Naypyidaw's terms', a nearly total surrender. Although the town of Muse isn't exactly in Kachin State it is a wider strategic blanket as far as the 'pacification of the Kachin' - "the wild and illiterate Kachin", Myanmar Peace Mediators from the Orwellian-Myanmar Peace Center might say!

This strategic calculation and Myanmar military's institutionalized Orwellian view of peace - "(victorious) war  against weaker parties is peace" - is coupled with the plan to build a commercial symbiosis between Myanmar military and cronies, as well as international 'donors', that is, EU countries and Japan.  

Think of Burma's historical and contemporary armed conflict/war zones as lucrative resource deposits, exploitable and expendable agricultural land, expensive forests, trade routes, potential tourist destination, strategic commercial and military routes, the econ frontiers where 'peace makers' can slice off for their further accumulation of ill-gotten gains from the country.

Politics, negotiations, ceasefire, and all the media and official spins are of secondary importance to both Naypyidaw regime and international peace 'donors'.

The deeply flawed thinking that has empirically been proven wrong in other conflict scenarios is: bring investment, foster development, create jobs for the underdogs - and that will create a conducive environment for peace - expanding peace, lasting peace, blah blah blah.

In the case of Cambodia's internal conflicts, Japanese investors and political players threw hundreds of millions into the process, which simply resulted in the former Pol Pot regional commander Hun Sen to keep power for over 30 years. They even lobbied successfully to let him keep power despite his defeat in the UN-sponsored election.

One thing these greedy, commercially driven outside interests - donors included - do not understand is it is not the greed, jobs, and commercial motivations which triggered civil wars. Economic factors may be in play, but generally armed resistance movements are about their identity, a sense of justice and fairness, a desire to live free of internal colonialism post-White Man's Burden era of national independence.

Without addressing the fundamental and real political and ethnic grievances, Myanmar has no peaceful future.


Watch here the two totally contradictory conclusions of the same meeting (The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) and Naypyidaw):

1) Union Minister and ex-military intelligence and Naypyidaw's pointman on 'peace' Aung Min (watch him speak to the Burmese press in the last 1-2 minutes of this 8 minute clip):

"The meeting was a resounding success. They had all signed separate ceasefire agreements with the government. When they sign it collectively this October (in the same book of ceasefire) it will reinforce the nationwide ceasefire. Absolutely successful."

(Then I heard the voice of my former activist colleague and Myanmar Peace Center staff trying to intervene unsuccessfully to shoo away the journalists - as soon as Aung Min put his 'a resounding success' spin by saying "we have a meeting to go to' - trying to whisk his ultimate boss Aung Min away from the journalists who were asking the latter questions). 

2) Naing Han Thar, a Mon leader:

"We don't have an agreement to sign anything. We already signed ceasefire agreements in our respective areas. Despite these ceasefires on paper there have continued hundreds of armed clashes everywhere. 

The purpose of ceasefires was to enable and engage in real substantive political dialogue/discussions. 

We don't have any framework in which these discussions will be pursued.

At the meeting just completed all we did was exchange views (between Naypyidaw and us). Nothing more nothing less. 

But we are really not at the stage where we are going to have political dialogue."

Khin Yi, former police chief who has now been included in Naypyidaw's 'union peace team' has repeated the need to speed up the peace process when he spoke officially to the UNFC leaders.

Indeed Naypyidaw has offered the ethnic minorities a peace deal which the latter may not refuse. 

My own analysis:

1) judging from the tones and facial expression of the real leaders of the peace team - Aung Min, Khin Yi as well as Myanmar Peace Center staff and managers, the colonial and racist 'big brother' are hardly concealed .

(Something no foreign observers or experts can easily pick up on this extremely crucial undercurrent. (When guys like formerly Mae Sot-based Nyo Ohn Myint described the Kachins as gullible illiterate susceptible to the Kachin leaders' manipulation and pro-Kachin propaganda it speaks volume. NOM may be the only stupid man who speaks his mind to the foreign/Canadian press, while the rest of Myanmar Peace Center speaks little about what they really think of the minorities. But NOM's colonial views are reflective of the foundation attitude of the Bama or state-centered minority staff like Andrew Liam, a Chin legal expert, involved in the ceasefire talks). 

2) desperate commercial interests are behind Naypyidaw's push for speeding up the formal nationwide ceasefire SIGNING in great haste. Any situation which can give Naypyidaw an opportunity to spin to the international investors that the simmering civil war in lucrative border regions is coming to an end, a key factor that is considered a major business risk.

Think of Burma's historical and contemporary armed conflict/war zones as lucrative resource deposits, exploitable and expendable agricultural land, expensive forests, trade routes, potential tourist destination, and frontiers where 'peace makers' can slice off for their further accumulation of ill-gotten gains from the country.


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