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Ethnic Insurgencies and Peacemaking in Myanmar

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2015

Tin Maung Maung Than
Affiliation:
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) Singapore
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Summary

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  1. • The reformist government in Myanmar is in the process of trying to consolidate ceasefires with contentious ethnic groups and to move towards political dialogue. This is part of a long history of interethnic strife in the country.

  2. • After many failed attempts by successive Myanmar governments to achieve peace with these groups, the first round of widespread ceasefires was finally achieved in the early 1990s due to military government's initiatives. It was premised on three points: the right to remain armed; the right to administer each group's own demarcated territory; and the right to conduct cross-border commercial activities.

  3. • After the elections in November 2010, however, the earlier ceasefire agreements lapsed. The elected Union Government of President U Thein Sein subsequently announced a peace offer on 18 August 2011. Though initially skeptical, 13 of these armed groups eventually entered into ceasefire talks at both provincial and Union level. All agreed to cease hostilities after discussions with government representatives and have engaged in further negotiations.

  4. • The Myanmar military is an important player in the peace process and its top leaders need to handle the negotiations with finesse and patience.

INTRODUCTION

State-building in Myanmar is a contentious exercise with many ethnic ‘nations’ challenging the unitary concept of the ruling elites who are mainly from the majority Bamar ethnic group and resorting to armed struggle. The Communists also did not accept the nascent government's legitimacy and sought ‘regime change’ through force of arms. Consequently, the army was wracked by mutinies and civil war erupted soon after independence and the government had to fight a multifront war against a multitude of ideological and ethnic insurgencies some of which are still continuing.

Through all this, the incessant fighting in support of the government and its legendary role in the resistance movement against British rulers and later Japanese occupiers in World War II elevated the Myanmar Defence Services (MDS)—known as the Tatmadaw (Royal Force)—not only into an indispensable adjunct to state power but also into a fount of power itself. As such, the military's perspective has had a domineering influence in shaping Myanmar's security outlook since independence

Type
Chapter
Information
ISEAS Perspective
Selections 2012-2013
, pp. 103 - 115
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2014

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