Uneasy end to Burma's civil war
ON-AND-OFF HOSTILITIES between the Burmese government troops and ethnic rebels threaten the peace negotiation and the parties' recent agreement to cease hostilities.
Since late last year, the government pursued ceasefire agreements with several armed ethnic rebels such as the Karen, Shan, Mon, Chin and Karenni. Clashes that broke out after the agreements, however, belie the peace process and leave observers confused about progress.
Over 20 major and minor ethnic minority rebel groups in the restive Karen and Kachin states signed ceasefire agreements since 1989, and each has failed.
Saw Eh Doh Wah, a Karen community leader who participated at a recent Karen unity seminar in KNU controlled areas said, “Look at the example of the KIO [Karen Independence Organization]. They have signed ceasefire agreement once, but it now breaks down again.”
More than 99 percent of the Kachin population are Christian, mainly Baptist. When a former Burmese Prime Minister U Nu attempted to nationalize Buddhism as the state religion in 1961, the Kachin rebellion started to break out.
Nowadays, the talk among ethnic Karen war refugees along the Thai-Burmese border is of the government's military buildup in Karen State. They claim government forces began moving the military supplies in following a ceasefire agreement with the KNU on Jan. 12, in Pa-an, the capital of Karen State.
Karen refugee Htoo Htoo, just returning from an Internally Displace Persons (IDPs) camp in Papun District in northern Karen State, said he witnessed some 80 government trucks on Jan. 15 hauling food and military supplies to government outposts in northern Karen State where KNU Brigade maintains 5 bases. Local KNU armed units confirmed the report.
Karen IDPs at a temporary shelter on Thai-Burma border, they said that local villagers in Karen State are very worried about a breakdown of the Jan. 12 ceasefire. And given the troubling buildup of government troops, displaced war victims in Karen State will not dare to return home any time soon, since they will be the first to suffer attacks and human rights abuses if the ceasefire fails.
According to Bangkok-based Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), a humanitarian organization that provided assistance to war refugees on Thai-Burma border, over 450,000 civilians remain internally displaced in eastern and south eastern Burma. And the majority of households are unable to meet their basic needs.
Htoo Klei, the secretary of Karen Office of Relief and Development, a Karen relief group which operate its works in conflict zones in Karen State, reports that several clashes have broke out between the KNU and the government troops in early March. Some clashes broke out after government patrols were injured by a landmine, according to Htoo Klei.
Baw Boe, a KNU soldier at the frontline, doubts the government is negotiating in good faith.