Uneasy end to Burma's civil war
“If they [Burmese government] really want to make peace, they have to reduce their troops in our areas. Instead, they increased the military supplies. So, I didn’t see any improvement since the ceasefire was signed,” said Baw Boe.
In eastern Burma, the Shan State Army – South (SSA – South), another rebel group that reached a ceasefire agreement with the government in Dec. last year, indicated that government troops continue attacks and reinforcements despite the ceasefire.
SSA – South spokesperson Maj Sai Lao Hseng repored that clashes with government troops broke out on March 11 in Shan State as the government troops intiated attacks against the Shan rebel outposts in Mong Yawng in eastern Shan Shate and in Kyaukme in northwest Shan State.
Heavy fighting was also reported between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and government troops in northern Shan State on March 12, two days after peace talks collapsed.
On Feb 19 this year, fighting also took place in southern Karen State between members of a Karen faction, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and a joint force of government and its loyalist militia known as Border Guard Force (BGF). The DKBA had signed ceasefire agreement with the government peace delegation in Nov. 2011.
Ethnic Karen have been oppressed by Burmese-speaking armed men for generations. Since 1947, in the conflict zones in Karen State in eastern Burma, women and girls have been raped, children killed, and men tortured and forced to serve as porters and minesweepers.
Hatred and distrust of the government remain deeply embedded and prompted Burmese ethnic minorities to fight for their autonomy and human rights, which the Burmese government has refused to acknowledge.
Democratic activist Aung San Suu Kyi said that distrust and disagreements among the Burmese government and ethnic minorities have roots going back to Burma's independence in 1947.
“The absence of the rule of law is also a factor that intensifies the flame of civil war,” said Suu Kyi.
“We have to work on a real federal union that grants equality rights and self-determination to the ethnic minority groups based on the spirit of the Panglong Agreement,” said added.
In 1947, Burma’s hero of independence, Gen Aung San, met with ethnic leaders and forged an agreement in the town of Panglong.
With the Panglong Agreement, ethnic leaders entrusted their fate to Gen Aung San to achieve independence from the British and set up a power-sharing arrangment based on equal rights for all ethnic minorities. But the moment did not last long. Aung San was assassinated, setting in motion the painful decades that followed.
Phu Hoe, a 60-year-old KNU fighter at a present-day outpost in northern Karen state said, “They [Burmese government] always cheated us. In the past, while they talked about ceasefire with the KNU, they prepared for military activities by increasing their troops. When they got ready, they launched attacks against us. It happened repeatedly in the past.
“Building peace with the ethnic minorities depends completely on the Burmese government’s sincerity,” said Phu Hoe.