Fighting in North Burma Could Derail Peace Process: Ethnic Leader

ethnic conflict, Myanmar, peace process, Kachin, Shan, Palaung, UNFC

Khun Okkar, the joint-secretary of United Nationalities Federal Council, talks to reporters in Rangoon on Tuesday. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — A senior ethnic leader involved in nationwide ceasefire talks with the government warned on Tuesday that a recent increase in fighting between the military and ethnic armed groups in northern Burma could derail the ongoing peace process.

Khun Okkar, the joint-secretary of United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of 12 ethnic armed groups, said on Tuesday that the fighting could cause internal conflict to flare up again and ceasefire gains made in the past two years could be undone.

“I am worried that Burma is going to have civil war again, like in 1980, which will spread through the whole country,” he said during a press conference in Rangoon held at the end of the two-day Civil Society Forum for Peace.

“Even though we are trying to negotiate for a nationwide peace agreement… there is ongoing fighting with the Palaung [armed group], there is also fighting sometimes with the SSA-North and the Kachin [group],” Khun Okkar said.

President Thein Sein’s reformist government has signed ceasefire agreements with 14 armed groups in the past two years and has been keen to sign a nationwide ceasefire with these ethnic rebel groups.

The rebels met with the government peace negotiation of Minister Aung Min in Myitkyina, Kachin State, in November and planned to hold another conference in Hpa-an, Karen State, in January, but progress on the next round of nationwide ceasefire talks has stalled.

Khun Okkar said government officials and ethnic rebel leaders would now hold preliminary talks on March 9-10 in order to smooth some differences and set up the next nationwide ceasefire conference in Hpa-an.

The signing of a nationwide ceasefire would have to be followed by political dialogue over the demands of the ethnic groups who are seeking political autonomy for their regions.

Khun Okkar voiced concern, however, over the fighting in northern Burma and questioned whether all government officials and leaders of the Burma Army are willing to sign a nationwide ceasefire.

“I found there is problem within the government, where some people did not want to recognize a nationwide peace agreement ….they could not fight anymore with ethnic armed groups and they have to stop all military operations,” he said.

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) are two groups that have not signed a ceasefire with the government. The groups have sporadically clashed with the Burma Army in the past year, but in recent weeks government troops have reportedly launched a number of attacks, killing rebel soldiers and seizing several rebel defense posts in northern Shan and Kachin states.

The Shan State Army-North has also come under attack in the area, despite having signed a ceasefire with Naypyidaw in January 2012. The group said it lost two strategically important camps to Burma Army attacks last week.

4 Responses to Fighting in North Burma Could Derail Peace Process: Ethnic Leader

  1. The regime’s seriousness has already been seen. Regime just plays ethnics like toys. United nationalities federal council needs to make sure to be ready for making real peace and also to make sure to confront regime with fire. Regime keeps insulting ethnics today. Attack on Palau means attack on all of us. Attack on ka chin means attack on all of us. Attack on shan means attack on all of us. Why should we allow regime to keep bullying us?

  2. The action of Myanmar regime proves that the regime is not serious about peace and democracy in our land. Thein Sein says one thing but Min Aung Hlaing is doing different thing. There are three government in the regime. Military Branch, Executive Branch and Legislative Branch. So, we have no commander in chief. If the regime is untrustworthy, just leave it and fight with the best weapons until it becomes a real organization to work with. Now, it is not even worthy to be called “Government”. If they shoot at you, just shoot them back.

  3. Could derail? It is already derailed. UNFC must send strong message to the regime now. Insult and bully must stop now or civil war. What really is the option? To me, UNFC needs to stop dealing with the regime. The regime needs to show us its seriousness for peace in the land. So far, we the people do not see regime’s seriousness at all. The regime is supposed to lead us for genuine peace. We only see lip’s service. Unless it proves its seriousness, stop talk with the regime. Assaulting on one ethnic is assault on all of us. Regime’s troops must be withdrawn from every ethnic’s land. UNFC is so soft to the regime. If the regime is proving that it is unwilling for peace, give up peace talk and fight it back. Regime has many faces. Thein Sein administration has different face. Military has different face. And Shwe Mann leads different face. Under the leadership of UNFC, we the ethnics better fight the regime back with all means.

  4. George Than Setkyar Heine

    “Even though we are trying to negotiate for a nationwide peace agreement… there is ongoing fighting with the Palaung [armed group], there is also fighting sometimes with the SSA-North and the Kachin [group],” Khun Okkar said.
    Min Aung Hlaing DOES NOT WANT PEACE IN BURMA, idiot!
    Peace in Burma would RENDER him JOBLESS as well of course.
    CHAOS and INSTABILITY in the country GIVE Min Aung Hlaing the PERFECT EXCUSES to FLEX HIS MUSCLE on the ARMED ETHNIC GROUPS as well like today.
    The 2015 election is fast approaching and Min Aung Hlaing’s BOSS – Than Shwe – NEEDS to KEEP BURMA ON ITS TOES for the BETTER for HIM of course.
    A democratic ruling body in Burma in the wake of the 2015 elections would certainly PUT the retired DICTATOR and his GANG of CUTTHROATS ON NOTICE, their presence in the DOCKS at the INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT at The Hague, The Netherlands, to ANSWER for their CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY/WAR CRIMES before DEATH BEATS THEM TO IT on the other hand.
    The Naypyidaw regime has NO AGENDA much less the DESIRE to LET PEACE and PROSPERITY REIGN in BURMA since day one until today. Aren’t you guys getting that right yet?
    Thein Sein led lot at Naypyidaw has NO CAUSE much less ROOM to EXIST in A PEACEFUL and PROSPEROUS BURMA as well if you guys don’t know the fact yet.
    Simply put: HYENAS HAVE NO PLACE in a PRIDE OF LIONS to be precise folks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available. Comments with external links in the body text will be deleted by moderators.