Burma Govt Requests $7m for Peace Process

Karen National Union (KNU) leaders and government peace negotiators shake hands during talks in Rangoon last year. After agreeing to a ceasefire, the KNU has negotiated with the government over development projects in Karen State. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — A budget request of 7 billion kyats (US$7.1 million) for Burma’s peace process and national reconciliation efforts has been submitted to Parliament as a designated appropriations item for the first time.

Kan Chun, a President’s Office official, told a session of Parliament this week that President Thein Sein intended the funds, which fall under the broader “national planning” budget, to be used for the ongoing peace process between the government and more than a dozen ethnic armed rebel groups.

The request marks the first time that a “peace appropriation” has been requested as a component of the state budget. Last year, one million kyats—diverted from its originally earmarked purpose of funding the construction of housing for parliamentarians in Naypyidaw—was the extent of government funding for peace talks. Outside funders such as the Norway Peace Initiative and Japan’s Nippon Foundation have been the main financial backers of the peace process in Burma. Foreign governments and the European Union have also been major supporters.

“The budget was not proposed by MPC,” said Hla Maung Shwe, a leading member of the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) who added that he felt the funding request was excessive.

“The proposed peace budget this year is so much, in my opinion. Seven times more than the previous amount,” he said.

Still, the funding request is just a fraction of the 2.36 trillion kyats that Burma’s Defense Ministry proposed this week for its 2014-15 budget.

Funds designated for Burma’s peace process go to a variety of different initiatives and expenditures, including the set-up and staffing of liaison offices in ethnic regions, development programs and coordinating operations run by the MPC, a government-affiliated entity formed with 700,000 euros ($950,000) in start-up funding from the European Union. In announcing the formation of the MPC in November 2012, the European Union pledged an additional 30 million euros in support for the peace process in 2013.

“The budget, if approved by the Parliament, will be used by the concerned persons in the peace process within the framework of the Central Peace-making Committee and Working Committee,” Hla Maung Shwe said on Thursday, referring to the government’s two main peace negotiating bodies.

Funding for Burma’s peace process has come in for criticism in the past by observers who have urged greater transparency. Total funding the peace process since Thein Sein embarked on an ambitious effort to reconcile with the country’s many ethnic groups in 2011 is difficult to estimate. The Myanmar Peace Monitor, a project that tracks the peace process in Burma, said some $500 million was committed to various peace initiatives by mid 2012.

This week an official from the Norway-funded Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI) said the program was being reviewed to determine whether it remained relevant two years after its launch, during which time the MPSI put $2 million toward dozens of peace initiatives in Burma.

Hla Maung Shwe said the government aims to establish a framework for political dialogue this year, an aspect of the national reconciliation process that ethnic groups have long called for.

Since Thein Sein took office, the government has signed ceasefires with 14 of the country’s 16 main armed rebel groups. It hopes to reach a “nationwide ceasefire” with all of the groups in the coming months.

3 Responses to Burma Govt Requests $7m for Peace Process

  1. Huge budget for nothing? USDP regime is just dragging its feet. It does not really want to achieve real peace. UNFC has been asking for what the ethnic peoples deserve. At the same time, UNFC’s stand is absolutely fit for Democratic Union of Myanmar. Look at the USDP’s policy. Their stand is no way close to democracy. It is still just a relic of former military dictatorship. Aung Min and Thein Sein do not have their final say for peace process but Than Shwe and Min Aung Hlaing are still holding absolute power. So, $ 7 million is way too much for a failed peace negotiation program.

  2. “The budget, if approved by the Parliament, will be used by the concerned persons in the peace process within the framework of the Central Peace-making Committee and Working Committee,” Hla Maung Shwe said on Thursday.”

    Who are the “concerned persons” involved in the peace talks and how’s the money spent in the name of “Peace”? Will the money be used for transporation, housing, personal allowances for people leading the peace talk? If so, what’s the overhead? Will the people who lost their homes, land and everything living along the border benefit from this “national planning budget”? Who’s monitoring how this budget is spent?

  3. Dear Sir

    The over 20 major armed ethnic groups and another over 10 armed ethnic militia groups have been operating with the support (good will) or cash collection as levy along border trading in the past 60 years including other income from (whatever) trades. Likewise, the Burma’s army (Tadmadaw) has been operating the budget from the country (income) that public account is not recorded until 2010. I think, taxation laws is critical to the nation’s income and budget allocation. There are over 400000 government’s military personals and there are estimated over 60000 ethnic armed personals including ethnic militias. The country is feeding very close to 1.5 millions of armed personal in combined. Peace process shall be looking resource management, finance management and income allocation in each region. Peace process / agreement shall be looking on local economy and access to local development in farm land and other food products. Peace agreement shall be looking options for armed ethnic groups that the ethnic army have access to land, local food products and other skills to rehabilitation and food security. Peace agreement shall be providing space that ethnic armed groups could develop local health, education and economy that enable local population in terms of livelihood. It is a big task that the government, the Tadmadaw and ethnic armed groups’ leaders put the nation first and assured security and safety of the population. However, on the contrary, most cease-fire groups have been exploiting the opportunity at the expense of local population whom are poorer than the ethnic armed group. Where is Check and Balance in our own nation?

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