Civilians beaten, shot by govt troops in Lashio: SHRF



Three villagers were badly beaten while another was shot by Burmese government troops during recent military maneuvers in Lashio Township, according to local watchdog Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF).

Photo SHRF: three victim villagers who were beaten by Burmese army.
In its report on December 6, SHRF said the first incident occurred at about 8am on November 13, when a Burmese army unit, Light Infantry Battalion 119, stopped over in the village of Wan Koong Pao, Ei Nai tract, in the Mong Yen area of Lashio district.

Three villagers ­– identified as Lung Hla Win, aged 64, Sai Nyunt, 25, and Sai Tun, 16 – were accused of trying to pass information to Shan rebels, and were badly beaten.

“They were speaking loudly because Lung Hla Win is hard of hearing. They were talking about travelling to Mong Yen,” said the report. “Some Burmese soldiers accused them of trying to pass information to Shan rebels, detailing the Burmese troops’ movements so they could lay landmines along the route. So the soldiers beat them up.”

Then on November 16, a villager named Sai Ai Hsai, 40, from Mong Yen area, was reportedly shot in the right thigh by a soldier from Burmese army Battalion 69 while he was returning home from the jungle. He was taken to Lashio hospital for treatment.

“People here have been oppressed for a long time,” said Sai Hor Hseng, the spokesperson for SHRF. “When they [the Burmese army] come to these villages, they arbitrarily torture people and do anything they want. They do not protect civilians; instead, they threaten them.”

Sai Hor Hseng said that even though the country is now run by a civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), human rights violations are continuing.

The military continues to abuse villagers in any way they want, he said, while the government appears powerless to stop them.

“These four villagers did not get any compensation,” said Sai Hor Hseng. “Nor did the soldiers involved receive any punishment.”

He added: “These four villagers were lucky to survive.”

According to a 2015-16 Amnesty International annual report: “Members of the [Burmese] security forces continued to violate human rights with near-total impunity. Investigations into human rights violations by the security forces were rare, and when they did occur they lacked transparency and independence.

“Perpetrators were seldom held to account. Victims and their families continued to be denied their rights to justice, truth and reparation.”

The report concluded: “State officials, including members of the security forces, remained protected from prosecution for past human rights violations by immunity provisions in the 2008 Constitution.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 230,000 people in Burma have become internally displaced across the country since 2015. About 100,000 of these IDPs fled from conflict in Kachin and northern Shan states.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)


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TAKING STOCK: The peace process after five years



As the Thein Sein regime initiated peace process, which started out on 17 August 2011, entered into the fifth year and the partially signed Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) a little more than one year old – its first anniversary just celebrated on 15 October 2016 -, many started to wonder, where it is heading and if this noble initiative is really making sense from the point of national reconciliation and state-building, especially in the wake of recent furious armed clashes that has happened along the Burma-China border, around Muse Township, in northern Shan State.

Let us look at the whole peace process of this some five years, four under the Thein Sein government and some nine months now under the NLD regime, headed by its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, that has inherited it from its predecessor.

In order to do this, let us dwell on the premises of NCA, as both the Thein Sein and Suu Kyi governments have made it a cornerstone and guiding principles to achieve the desired result that would usher the country its people to a new harmonious political system that all could live with, fulfilling national reconciliation and most importantly, a durable political settlement along ethnic lines and diverse political aspirations of the major stakeholders.

Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) text, agreed on 6 August and signed on 31 October 2015, has a preamble and seven chapters, with 33 clauses and 86 sub-clauses containing 104 specific provisions and running to twelve pages in the English version. Key provisions are: Preamble, Basic principle, Aims and Objectives, Ceasefire Related Matters, Maintaining and Strengthening Ceasefire, Guarantees for Political Dialogue and Future Tasks, and Miscellaneous.

The International Crisis Group's (ICG) report of 16 September 2015, just prior to the signing of NCA, correctly spelled out the challenges which the negotiators would face ahead, which are still valid today after one year of inking the agreement. It said:  “Finalization of a draft NCA text was a significant step but meant as only the first in the process, with long, difficult political dialogue needed before a comprehensive peace agreement – the “Union Accord” – could be reached. Many of the most challenging issues, including what form of federalism might be envisaged, how revenue sharing would be done and the future status of the armed groups and their possible integration into the military were deferred to the political dialogue. So too were some technical military issues on ceasefire monitoring and code of conduct”

The report further pin-pointed the agreement's weakness and difficulties in implementing it on the ground, concluding with perhaps a possible ray of false hope that it might as well succeed. The report stated: “Thus the text is neither a classic ceasefire agreement – many of the military issues such as force separation, demarcation and verification are vague, or not included, or would require further agreement to come into force – nor is it a political agreement, as it references many political issues but defers detailed discussion. This hybrid status reflects the genesis of the document and the diverse set of actors and priorities around the peace table, as well as political constraints. As a ceasefire document, this means it is very weak, but as experts have pointed out, this does not mean the peace process cannot succeed, as there are many examples of comprehensive peace accords being negotiated while fighting continued.”

In sum, it could be said that the NCA is not only concerned with ceasefire alone but also issues relating to the formation of future political system formation, although nothing is quite clear on how to go about with it, at the moment, given the convoluted nature of the contemporary political landscape.

How NCA is managed

Looking at the chart flow on NCA management, one would see Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) is the highest organ that delegates the Joint Monitoring Committee – Union-level (JMC-U) regarding ceasefire implementation and Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) responsible for political dialogue and directing the whole peace process undertaking.

JICM is made up of two groups with 8 members each. One is the government, parliament and military combined and the other the signatory EAOs.

The JMC-U is made up of three groups. The two groups with 10 members each are the government, parliament and military combined and the other, the signatory EAOs. In addition, 3 civilian representatives each chosen by the military and the signatory EAOs, making 6 altogether also are included.

The UPDJC is made up of three groups, each with 16 members. The three groups are the government, parliament and military combined, the signatory EAOs, and political parties. It is the highest organ in directing the country’s political dialogue, including the convening of Union Peace Conference (UPC) or 21st Century Panglong.

The actual signing of NCA

On 15 October 8 EAOs signed the NCA in Naypyitaw, while the rest that made up 13 others refused to sign. The official count of the EAOs is 21, while the government only recognized 15 altogether.

They are Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Chin National Front (CNF),  Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Karen Peace Council (KPC), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Karen National Union (KNU), New Mon State Party (NMSP), Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), and Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), which are Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) members that have signed bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government and invited to sign the NCA.

The only NCCT member that has no ceasefire agreement with the government, but invited to sign the NCA is the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

The non-NCCT members that have bilateral ceasefire agreements with the government and invited to sign the NCA are All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang (NSCN-K), Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and United Wa State Army (UWSA).

EAOs that have no bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government and not invited to sign the NCA are Arakan Army (AA), Arakan National Council (ANC), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Wa National Organization (WNO).

These 6 excluded EAOs are members of the UNFC, a 12 ethnic armies alliance, which since the signing of NCA some of its original members like the KNU has opted to suspend – not resign – its membership, while the CNF and PNLO were expelled. In addition, the MNDAA and TNLA have asked for resignation but the UNFC has not taken decision on the issue up to this days.  Thus, the actual membership count of the UNFC is not clear, although to date many referred to it as a 7 member ethnic army alliance.

The NCA signatories are ABSDF, ALP, CNF, DKBA, KNLA-PC, KNU, PNLO and RCSS

The NCCT was a negotiation body of the EAOs, prior to the NCA signing, which had 16 EAOs as members.

Reasons for not signing the NCA

The reasons for the UNFC not signing the NCA has been the government rejection to accept 6 of its members, while other non-signatories that are not UNFC members like UWSA, NDAA and NSCN-K have their own doubtfulness and reasons, one way or the other.

The UWSA aspires to achieve the status of a statehood within the union and is not yet satisfied with the recent status of Self-Administrative Division. The NDAA or Mong La, on the other hand, dreams of achieving an Akha Self-Administrative Zone.

The Wa, who already has the highest degree of self-administration in practical sense, where even the government's troops cannot even enter without permission, simply doesn't see more profit to be gained from signing the NCA. Mong La being the UWSA ally, also sees the situation more or less the same.

As for the NSCN-K, its goal is to carve out a political entity from Burma and India and doesn't see any meaningful approach through signing the NCA.

As for the UNFC not going along with the inking of the agreement hinged on the exclusion of its members and explained by the KNU Vice-President Naw Zipporah Sein – oddly enough, whose organization is a leading proponent that signed the NCA - in a written text titled “A brief NCA history, the NCA’s flaws and failings”, dated 14 January 2016, as: “The government refused to allow three of the 16 EAOs, represented by the NCCT and the Senior Delegation (SD), to sign the NCA. These three are the Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) – also known as TNLA, the Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). There was also a second group of three organizations that the government also refused to allow on grounds that they did not have a significant number of troops. They are the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), the Wa National Organization (WNO) and the Arakan National Congress (ANC). At the time, the three EAOs in the first group were facing government’s massive military offensives.”

She further wrote: “It is clearly stated in the last chapter of NCA that the NCA shall be signed by representatives from the government and representatives from the EAOs, as well as the international representatives and domestic personages, as witnesses. Nonetheless, the government continued to refuse the signing of the NCA by the 6 groups mentioned above. Out of the 7 countries proposed, the government also refused three international would-be witnesses, representing the US, UK and Norway to sign the NCA.”

As a result, on the 15th of October 2015, 8 EAOs repudiated the EAOs Summit Meeting decisions and agreed to sign the NCA with the government. The other 7 EAOs refused to sign, and a total of 6 were not allowed to sign.

The majority of the EAOs were irked and felt betrayed by the 8 signatories of the NCA, as the Laiza and Law Khee Lar conferences of the EAOs were to undertake the signing of agreement together.

The following statement from a paragraph of the “Conference of Ethnic Armed Resistance Organizations Law Khee Lar, Kawthoolei “ from January 20 – 25, 2014 stated:

This Law Khee Lar Conference, held under the aegis of KNU as the host, in addition to consolidating unity of all the ethnic nationalities, serves as an arena for preparing them, for different stages of political dialogues and negotiations that will come after achievement of nationwide ceasefire. The ethnic armed resistance organizations are to participate in the political dialogues and negotiations, with unity and coordination, and they will have to struggle on until their political goal of establishment of a Genuine Federal Union is achieved.

Ongoing wars on non-signatory EAOs and signatory EAOs

With the EAOs divided between the signatory and non-signatory groups, tension arose politically and militarily.

However, the hardened political stance dissipated as signatory and non-signatory EAOs began to cooperate to position or act as a bloc or group, after the Ethnic Armed Organizations’ (EAOs) Plenary Meeting in Mai Ja Yang, Kachin Independence Organization’s (KIO) controlled town near Chinese border, took place from 26 to 30 July.

Militarily, shortly after the signing of NCA in October last year, the signatory RCSS reinforced its units in northern Shan State, leading to protracted armed confrontation between itself and the TNLA. The TNLA accused the RCSS of intruding into its territories and that it was in league with the Burma Army, but the latter denied that it was the case.

To complicate the matter, the Burma Army attacked the RCSS several times during the year in Kyaukme and Hsipaw Townships and the latest one being this year in October, in Mong Kung Township where the RCSS accused the Burma Army of breaching the NCA.

The on and off military engagements between the EAOs and the Burma Army occurred all through out the year, in Shan and Kachin States, from 2011 until today.

But serious bouts of conflict happened during 2015 and 2016. Outstanding among them were the well publicized conflict in Shan State between the MNDAA and government troops in Kokang area, in February 2015, which was particularly intense from February to June that year and again in October 2015; and the recent 20 November, Northern Alliance-Burma (NA-B) offensives along the Burma-China border against the government positions. By 5 December, the ethnic alliance was said to have withdrawn from its siege of Mong Ko, where the government troops had put up a stiff resistance, using air strikes and artillery bombardment hitting many civilian targets. But elsewhere the fighting goes on in northern Shan State, which might still go on for quite a while.

The NA-B, made up of KIA, MNDAA, TNLA and AA were said to have launched the offensives, to employ the strategy of “offensive is the best defensive”, as the Burma Army has been conducting heavy attacks on the the KIA and NA-B members in Kachin and Shan States, since three months ago. Other than that they also wanted to send the message that excluding them from the peace process won't achieve the desired political outcome and that they are a force to be reckoned with.

There have also been clashes between government forces and the SSA-North, of particular intensity from October to November 2015 and in August 2016.

In Karen State, clashes in July 2015 and again from August to September 2016 between a renegade faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and government troops together with Border Guard Force soldiers were reported.

In summary, the Burma Army has been in an offensive mode and war-footing against all the non-signatory EAOs in  the Kachin and Shan States, but remarkably, also attacking the RCSS an NCA signatory and intruding into the KNU territories, while going after the DKBA splinter group. KNU is also an NCA signatory.

Analysis

Given such circumstances, the whole peace process spanning some five years should be viewed and assessed from the point of NCA implementation organs' performance, players or stakeholders political outlook and initiatives, the actual challenges the country is facing and possible remedies to break the deadlock.

The performance of the NCA implementation organs, which are JMC-U and UPDJC could be said as unsatisfactory, even though some might argue otherwise.

The first ever investigation carried out by the JMC regarding the armed clashes between the RCSS and Burma Army, which occurred in Mong Kung Township, said that the troops from both sides have no in-depth understanding of NCA, no contact with each other and no clear understanding on each others operational area.

The JMC investigation team is said to be formed with two civilian, two Tatmadaw and two RCSS representatives. Reportedly, it has suggested that aside from generally promoting better understanding between the RCSS and the Tatmadaw, drugs related crimes should be tackled cooperatively in coordination and the need to draw up demarcation lines for both troops to observe.

Thus it could be said even though JMC State-level could be formed in Shan and Karen states, implementing and understanding NCA for the troops is still rudimentary and on top of that demarcation lines for troops movement and stationing have not even started yet, after one year of NCA signing.  In short the JMC still needs a long way to go to be really effective.

The ongoing talks between the UNFC and the government's Peace commission also includes the strengthening of the JMC, where international experts' participation in ceasefire monitoring and also enforcement mechanism should be incorporated, which so far has been given a cold shoulder by the military on the proposal.

While JMC covers only the NCA signatory EAOs, the armed engagement with the non-signatories EAOs is solely the domain of Burma Army or defense ministry, which are exacerbating with its offensive wars in northern Shan and Kachin states.

As for the UPDJC performance being unable to conduct the peace process without having an all-inclusiveness is the biggest obstacle, as it would be only able to preside over limited state-level political dialogue, which is supposed to give crucial inputs to the union-level political dialogue or Union Peace Conference - 21st Century Panglong, as it is now officially dubbed by the NLD regime.

As areas that have not been covered by the NCA won't be able to conduct political dialogue, the inputs could not be all-encompassing, which in effect would mean the peace conference would only partially represent the population and that is not the intention of the Union Peace Conference.

Aung San Suu Kyi, as chairperson of the UPDJC and as well the National Reconciliation Peace Center (NRPC), is committed to a rigid time-frame and is determined to carry on the peace process with only the 8 EAOs, plus other stakeholders that are already part of the process. Her logic seems to be that in time the remaining EAOs would join in and eventually the idea of excluding the three EAOs would be accepted. But this has already been proven wrong, as could be seen by the recent NA-B offensives on the Burma Army positions.

As for the Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, the military posture of “a state within a state”, combined with upholding the military-drafted constitution would continue to be the norm and continued military supremacy in political arena would be maintained. People should not be confused with the military making use of Aung San Suu Kyi to gain international acceptance and legitimacy. 

The NCA signatory EAOs are torn between having to go along with the powers that be, for whatever purpose the individual members might have in store, and moral conviction to be in solidarity with the non-signatories of the NCA.

The NCA non-signatory EAOs, especially the UNFC, continues to bargain with the government on its 8 point proposal, which centers around, bilateral nationwide ceasefire, tripartite dialogue composition and commitment to the building of the genuine federal union, including all-inclusiveness of all EAOs in the peace process, even though not explicitly mentioned in the proposal.

The recent NA-B offensives on Burma Army positions could now have a negative impact for the UNFC negotiation with the government, as KIA, which is also UNFC leading member, is part of the NA-B.

The actual challenges facing the country are:

  • Firstly, the ongoing armed engagements and tensions between the EAOs and the Burma Army, including communal violence and the uprising of Rohingya, dubbed as Bengali by the government, in Arakan State;
  • Secondly, the government of NLD and the military power relation or problematic two-tier administrative structure;
  • Thirdly, the power and resources sharing within the ethnic states;
  • Fourthly, due to the ongoing wars and violence some 120,000 refugees fleeing across the borders and more than 662,400 inside the border as IDPs;
  • Fifthly, from 1962 to 2010, successive military governments confiscation of hundreds and thousands of acres of land from farmers all over the country; and
  • Finally, the superpower and regional power relationship, among others.

In order to overcome and tackle all the said woes and problems, the best place to start is countering the prevailing “depleted trust” atmosphere by initiating a “trust-building” initiative. And to do this the following mindset alteration, specifically from the part of the government and military might be necessary.

  • The genuine wish and commitment to be equal with all negotiation partners and not a patron-client relationship;
  • Practicing and believing in a real joint-ownership of the peace process and not just lip-service;
  • Bridging the differing concept, by accepting a common denominator that the country is a newly formed political entity voluntarily formed between ethnic states as the “Union of Burma”, after the British left in 1948 and they gained a joint-independence; and
  • A real political will and belief in peaceful co-existence and durable political settlement.

If the above suggested measures could be accepted, we all will be in a position to stop the ongoing armed ethnic conflict, create a peaceful atmosphere conducive to the peace process and eventually overcome all the woes that the country is now facing. Otherwise, we will be stuck up in a make-believe illusion and false believe of doing a noble deed by holding another 21st Century Panglong Conference, which is neither all-encompassing nor all-inclusive.



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Shan State govt calls emergency meeting



The Shan State government has convened an emergency meeting in state capital Taunggyi following two weeks of intense fighting in northern Shan State between Burmese government forces and a coalition of four ethnic armed groups known as the Northern Alliance.


According to Shan State Chief Minister Dr. Linn Htut, MPs will discuss the circumstances and effects of the ongoing conflict, as well as the budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year and development issues.

Speaking at a parliamentary session of the lower house in Naypyidaw on December 2, Home Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe said that the so-called Northern Alliance – comprising the Arakan Army (AA); Kachin Independence Army (KIA); Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA); and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) – should be classified as a terrorist organization in accordance with the law.
The Shan State assembly has begun the discussions on that issue on Monday. Although parliamentary details are yet to be announced, the debate is scheduled to last four days.
The recent conflict was ignited after the ethnic alliance launched coordinated offensives against Burmese army and police outposts on November 20. Thereafter, clashes have broken out in the Muse Township villages of 105-Mile, Mong Koe and Parng Zai, as well as in Namkham and Kutkai townships.
Hostilities have intensified, particularly in Mong Koe, a town on the Shan-China border. According to a statement published on December 5 by the Northern Alliance, the Burmese military launched offensives using heavy weapons including airstrikes by fighter jets in residential areas. The ethnic militias claim that schools, religious buildings and homes were destroyed in the raids.
“Four people were killed and two others injured,” read the statement.
On December 1, Shan Herald reported that a group of 70 people from Mong Koe had reportedly been arrested by Burmese troops while en route to a wedding.
According to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services on Sunday, the Burmese army has now retaken control of Mong Koe town from the ethnic rebels.

Since November 23, about 10,000 people have fled their homes to escape the spreading hostilities. Many sought refuge in makeshift shelters in Muse, while others crossed the border into China. Last week, several hundred villagers returned home, though another 700 remain camped inside religious buildings across Muse Township.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)


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Is Burma ready for civic nationalism?



Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first;
Nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.
Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), French general and statesman

I never knew the world has different terms for different nationalisms until the 19-25 November issue of The Economist recently reached my hands.

Of course, having been in and out of Thailand for more than 45 years, I know my cousins have their own separate terms: kinship by blood (ñati-thang-sailued) and kinship by principles and laws (ñati-thang-dhamma) accepted within a diverse and broad community. What the Thais call “Chart” (Nation) comprises both kinships.

According to Michael Ignatieff, Canadian politician and academic, “Ethnic Nationalism” and “Civic Nationalism” can be compared in the following way:



In addition, says The Economist, civic nationalism unites the country around common values, such as freedom and equality, to accomplish things that people could never manage alone. “It contrasts with ethnic nationalism, which is zero-sum, aggressive and nostalgic and which draws on race or history to set the nation apart. In its darkest hour in the first half of the 20th century, ethnic nationalisms led to war.”

Our present leaders, as well as their predecessors, perhaps with the exception of Aung San, who started out during British rule with “ethnic nationalism” seem to think they have developed to “civic nationalism”, by dumping “Burma” which the pre-Independence legislature had adopted, and restyling the country “Myanmar” without bothering to ask the nation. They should find out the truth about themselves by allowing the non-Bamars (or, non-Burmans, or non-Burmese) to rule for a while, and re-examine their feelings about being civic nationalists under non-Burman’s dominance.

The truth that is going to emerge is not what our leaders may anticipate:
·         Whatever they’ve been saying about “Myanmar” being an all embracing label for the diverse ethnicities of the country, at heart they themselves are still “Bamar”
·         That as long as they are not giving up their own “ethnic nationalism,” it will not be fair for them to urge the non-Burmans to get rid of their “narrow minded racism,” like they tried to do at the 21st Century Panglong.  Perhaps our leaders still need somebody to remind them a leader only leads by example, not words

Fortunately, our Burmese rulers are not alone. Once again, the world has returned to ethnic nationalisms with leaders like Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the likes.


But unfortunately, this resurgence of ethnic nationalism will not guarantee world peace, let alone peace in Burma, but will only push the whole planet toward war and destruction. 


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Anti-Buddhist Media and Myanmar: Complex Regional and Historical Dynamics



The mass media in both the West and Islamic world needs to find space in order to simplify hatred. It matters not if turning a blind eye to Sunni Takfiri massacres in Syria and the nations that are endorsing this, nor that in Myanmar’s recent history more Christians than any other non-Buddhist faith group have been killed based on ethnic and religious tensions. Instead, the simple version – while negating the Christian angle – is that Muslims are killed and targeted by radical Buddhists.


Ironically, the latest chain of events began after Muslims killed nine police officers in Rakhine state. International Crisis Group reports, “The attacks were carried out by Muslims, according to both government statements and local sources. An unverified video of the attackers, filmed in the wake of the attacks, has been circulating on social networks and seems legitimate. In it, one of the group calls on “all Rohingya around the world to prepare for jihad and join them”. This, the need for local knowledge to carry out the assaults, and the difficulty of moving large numbers of people around this area are all suggestive of local Muslim involvement – possibly organized with some outside support. However, many details of who exactly organized this and how remain unclear.”

Myanmar is blighted by many internal rebellions and is struggling on the path to democracy. Indeed, while the mass media is focused on the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, you have other continuing convulsions that are well outside Buddhist-Muslim issues. For example, Myanmar News reports,“About 3,000 Myanmar citizens fled across the border after the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Arakan Army (AA) staged a coordinated attack on military outposts, police stations, and a trade center in Muse and Kutkai townships. Ten people were killed and 33 others were injured during fighting on Nov. 20-22.”

Free Burma Rangers equally highlights the recent conflict between central authorities and different ethnic groups – many who are mainly Christian. In this incidence, the Free Burma Rangers reports, “In the last month sporadic fighting in two separate incidents was reported in Central Shan State between the Burma Army and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S). The clashes were deliberate actions by the Burma military and corresponded with the deployment and rotation of two separate Burma Army infantry battalions in the region. The attacks came within the first anniversary of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), which was signed October 15th, 2015… The attacks caused thousands of people in the region to flee, with rangers reporting over 2,000 people displaced and living in nearby IDP camps.”

UCA News reported last month, “At least 30,000 people from different faiths and ethnic groups were estimated to have taken part in a demonstration in Myanmar’s northern Kachin State on Oct. 22 where they demanded an end to military operations in the region… Protestors, including Catholic priests and nuns, held placards that read, “stop civil war” and “may there be peace in Myanmar” on the streets in Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State.”

UCA News continues, “The fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar military in Kachin and Shan states is considered the most severe of the country’s four ongoing conflicts.”

In other words, countless issues are underreported because it doesn’t suit the simplistic anti-Buddhist agenda in relation to the Rohingya Muslim crisis. Myanmar is clearly faced with countless ethnic and religious issues – alongside the road to democracy, countering poverty, narcotics, and the legacy of history. Despite this, the media is fixated on a one-dimensional approach – just like the mass media response to the crisis in Syria based on utterly biased reporting.

In a regional context it is abundantly clear that certain Buddhist clerics are disillusioned and aghast at the cleansing of Buddhists in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, countless terrorist attacks by Islamists against Buddhists in Southern Thailand, the destruction of holy Buddhist places in Afghanistan by Sunni Takfiris, endless Han migration to Tibet in order to dilute the influence of Tibetan Buddhism, and other issues, for example Buddhism is illegal in nations like Saudi Arabia (the same Sunni Islamist nation is intent on spreading Salafi Islam into the heart of Buddhism). Therefore, from the point of view of Buddhist clerics in Myanmar who support the protection of Buddhism internationally, then regional and historical realities are being neglected by a simplified Western and Islamic media bias.

Internationally, Sunni Takfiri Islamists are killing various non-Muslim faith groups and minority Muslim sects, including the endless butchering of Shia Muslims in many nations. Similarly, while Hinduism is in free fall in Bangladesh and Pakistan, the opposite can’t be stated for Islam in India. In other words, the endless one-way civilization war equally applies to the Indian subcontinent. Not surprisingly, and with Buddhists being cleansed in neighboring nations, then militancy within Buddhist circles in Myanmar is deemed to be self-defensive. After all, historically, Buddhists understand full well that Islamic invading armies destroyed countless numbers of holy Buddhist monasteries and places of learning over many centuries. Indeed, while Christian and Muslim slavery of black Africans is a historical reality, with Muslim slavery starting first on a major scale in Africa and ending last (still issues of slavery in Mauritania and in the recent history of Sudan), then the Buddhist view in certain circles in Myanmar is based on self-preservation, the need for an alternative voice to be heard, and to tackle mass distortions.

Media outlets that condemn Buddhists in Myanmar are neglecting the reality of what Sharia Islamic law means to faith groups including Buddhists and Hindus. Are these religious minorities equal in Islamic Sharia states? Can Buddhist males freely marry Muslim females in nations like Saudi Arabia? The answers are obvious because non-Abrahamic faiths have been treated brutally under Islamic Sharia law throughout history. Likewise, in modern day Saudi Arabia if a Buddhist male fell in love with a Muslim Saudi female then he would face prison – or death in accordance with the tenets of Islamic Sharia. Yet, you don’t see major Western and Islamic media outlets stressing “Islamic fascism” and so forth but similar labels are aimed at Buddhist clerics in Myanmar.

Similarly, in Myanmar – and nobody is negating that massacres have taken place against Muslims in this nation – the simple reality is that more Christians belonging to various ethnic groups, for example, the Chin, Karen, and Kachin, have been killed than any other non-Buddhist faith group. Despite this, over the many decades you never had the same outpouring of “good” against “evil,” or headlines stressing “Christian genocide” to anything like the degree of the Muslim focus in modern day Myanmar. In other words, an agenda by the Western and Islamic media is at hand whereby Sunni Takfiris will manipulate a biased media – just like the endless rhetoric against Syria – in order to propagate more Sunni Islamist militancy in nations like Bangladesh.

Massacres and intimidation have happened on both sides in Myanmar but like Kosovo, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, you have a favorable Western and Sunni Muslim media joint angle opposed to the brutal one-sided other. Similarly, the Christian angle of alienation and persecution in Myanmar is being reduced to a completely different way of reporting. Once more the mass media is stoking fires based on the usual one-sided agenda. Therefore, Sunni Islamists in Bangladesh who are killing secularists, writers, and persecuting religious minorities, will gain from one-sided distortions. The same equally applies to the Sunni Islamist Takfiri agenda including ISIS (Islamic State – IS), al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and a plethora of other sectarian and terrorist groups – and to certain nations including Saudi Arabia that bans all non-Muslim holy places throughout the entire nation.

Myanmar needs honest brokers to help this nation overcome decades of complex issues. Sabre rattling by the media and United Nations will only lead to further bloodshed because sooner or later international jihadists will enter the fray.

Michiyo Tanabe and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

http://www.myanmarnews.net/index.php/sid/249646815

https://crisisgroup.org/asia/south-east-asia/myanmar/myanmar-border-attacks-fuel-tensions-rohingya-muslim-minority

http://www.freeburmarangers.org/2016/11/08/shan-state-update-the-national-ceasefire-accord-violated-as-clashes-between-burma-army-and-rcss-troops-echo-in-central-shan-state/

http://www.ucanews.com/news/protestors-plead-for-end-to-civil-war-in-myanmars-north/77446


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LABELING UNFC AND NA-B TERRORIST: Ethnic offensive blame game might lead to further conflict polarization



The Burma Army or Tatmadaw hard-line stance vis a vis the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) has never been in doubt. But as the Defense Minister proposed that all the organizations that made up the Northern Alliance-Burma (NA-B) be determined as terrorist establishments and their leaders be considered officially terrorist, the Tatmadaw has gone an extra mile to heighten the conflict and buttress its all-out war of attrition, politically and militarily.

On 2 December, Defense Minister Lt‐Gen Sein Win proposed to the Lower House that the Parliament should consider labeling the NA-B that launched offensives in Shan State as a coalition of “terrorist organizations.”

He said: “Because the offensives are causing senseless death and injuries to the innocent civilians, destroying non-military targets like buildings, motor vehicles and economy of the people, (I) proposed that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA) should be considered as terrorist organizations by the Parliament.”

The Defense Minister further stressed and urged the Parliament that the help of NGOs and INGOs under the heading of humanitarian aids should also be curtailed.

Buttressing the Tatmadaw's hard-line stance, the military MP Col Than Aung said that tough actions should be taken against the main perpetrators including United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) chairman N’Ban La, KIA leader Gam Shawng, TNLA leader Tar Aik Bong, MNDAA leaders Peng Jiasheng and U Peng Daxun and the AA’s commander Tun Myat Naing, in line with existing statutes,  according to the anti‐terrorism law.

However, the Tatmadaw's motion, including twelve lawmakers' debate were recorded without any decision made. Thus the debate over an urgent proposal by Dr. Maung Thin of Meiktila Constituency on NA-B's offensive issue, which was said to have caused death, injuries and displacement of civilians and affected national sovereignty, rule of law, stability and the country’s peace process, was decided only to be recorded by 244 against 141 votes.

The NLD and ethnic parliamentary representatives were said to have discussed the issue and opted for speedy negotiation around the table.

UNFC response

Understandably, the UNFC has responded by saying that the Tatmadaw MP's  fervent insistence within the Parliament to label head of the UNFC N'Ban La, whose organization has constantly been in touch with the government regarding the ongoing peace negotiation, reflected the Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing's opinion on the UNFC, said Tun Zaw one of its spokesperson.

He further elaborated that the KIA, through the UNFC's good office, has time and again requested the Tatmadaw for talks to stop the offensives and deescalate the armed conflict, but were only met with a deafening silence.

He stressed that the UNFC is still for peaceful negotiation to end the conflict and it now depends solely upon the attitude of the government and the Tatmadaw, whether they would be ready to come around to the negotiation table.

Accordingly, there has been a widespread believe that the government is not in a position to say or discuss anything regarding the Tatmadaw's military undertakings.

Aung San Suu Kyi
During the State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi's recent visit to Singapore, on 1 December, about 7,000 Burmese people attended the event at the Big Box Event Hall in Singapore’s Jurong East neighborhood, where she touched on selected questions posed by the community.

From all the questions posed, two of them are quite relevant as it concerns the issues of rape and the impact of the NA-B offensives on the 21st Century Panglong Conference.

Regarding the series of high‐profile child rape cases over the past few months, “It is also a social issue,” she said. “We have to analyze why there are so many rape cases against minors and what kind of weak points our society has.”

“We need to analyze these cases from a social perspective, and then we will decide how we should resolve these cases in every possible way,” she stressed.

But surprisingly enough she had not made any mentioning on the Tatmadaw's long employment of “rape as a weapon of war” against the ethnic population, which were so widespread and well documented, in connection with the rape issue discussed. The high profile rape case of the two Kachin teachers by the Burma Army troops, in northern Shan State in January last year, is still a fresh reminder for many of the ethnic women that still have to live with the constant fear and worry within the conflict zones.

Concerning the recent clashes in northern Shan State, which have pointed a spotlight on the importance of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, she said: “Some don’t have the courage to achieve peace, when the mistrust [between communities] is bigger than the desire for peace.”

However, Suu Kyi is quite vague in addressing the root cause of “mistrust” and what could be done to achieve “trust” that has been depleted. She clearly failed to mention the month-long Tatmadaw offensives in Kachin and Shan States that have contributed to the depletion of the little trust that the ethnic might have ever accumulated on the government.

Chinese mediation

Meanwhile, the Chinese planned mediation between representatives of the Northern Alliance and officials from Burma’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) on 1 December in Kunming, China to discuss a possible end to the two-week-old conflict fell apart, as the opposing sides could not agree on the basic format of the meeting, according to ethnic armed group leaders.

According to Radio Free Aisa, one Northern Alliance negotiator, Col Tar Phone Kyaw of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) said: “We, members of the NA-B all four, wanted to meet as one group together, but Dr. Tin Myo Win's group (NRPC) wants to meet separately; first with TNLA, later Kokang and AA only. As we can't agree, we're going back.”

Remarkably, the NRPC made no mention of wanting to meet the KIA.
Frustrated, Col Tar Phone Kyaw said “Now let’s go back to our territory and launch this war again,”   after the talks failed to materialize, reported The Irrawaddy.
On 29 November, Mr. Wang Wei, Deputy Director of the Yunnan Foreign Affairs Office, met the Myanmar media delegation in Kunming World Trade Center was interviewed.

When asked what would be China's position on accusation that the Chinese government had provided help to the ethnic armed groups after some of their members entered China following the conflict that broke out,  replied: “If any injured people come into China, the Chinese authorities will provide medical treatment to them in the first place. At such a critical moment, we don't have any time to investigate the identity of the injured. But what I want to stress is the stance of the Chinese government, which is no action by anyone is acceptable to undermine the peace and stability in the border area, and no one is acceptable to rely on China to fight others. The Chinese government hopes that Myanmar would restore peace via political means. We think such information carried by foreign media is inaccurate. We hope that the Myanmar media may obtain detailed and accurate information via this field investigation.”

The point to be noted here is that China is not going to take sides, but humanitarian aids would go on, where necessary.

Perspective

Looking at the recent development, the future outlook of the peace process looks dim. Suu Kyi is unable to rein in on the military to stop its offensives in Kachin and Shan States; the two-tier administration seems to become the order of the day, with the military making and implementing its own policy in ethnic areas, while the NLD rules over in areas where wars are absent; the polarization of positions between the Tatmadaw and the NA-B, which also indirectly involves the UNFC; and the Tatmadaw's commitment to carry on the war of attrition rather than a negotiated settlement.

Besides, the Tatmadaw's attitude on the ethnic population within the conflict zone is worrying, which is unreasonable  and outright inhumane, as curtailing humanitarian aids would mean starvation and slow death for the people caught in the war between two warring groups.

As such, pessimism has taken over the political landscape and in particular, the much promoted 21 Century Panglong Conference and peace process achievement are now really in doubt.

But there is still a glimmer of hope for not all has gone down the drain yet, when Home Minister General Kyaw Swe said that even though the four EAOs that formed the NA-B could now be announced as terrorist organizations,  in order not to affect the government's peace process, they were abstaining from doing it.

This considerate stance, in contrast to the Defense Minister urging to label the NA-B as terrorist groups, has at least leave the door of negotiation open for now.

But the immediate task of the warring parties has now being tested militarily in Mong Ko area, given the intense firefights with the NA-B trying to route out the Tatmadaw's hill top garrison to take control of the whole area and subsequent, while retaliation and bombarding of the Tatmadaw, using combat aircraft from above are said to be also hitting civilian targets, would be the defining moment, if the protracted war could be capped and negotiation would resume.


It is now up to the warring parties, if they wanted to be reasonable or whether to make or break the peace process. For neither Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also in no position to influence the Tatmadaw, nor the Chinese, who could only persuade the warring parties to be logical, could stop the ongoing armed conflict, as only the people involved in it would have to decide for themselves. One could only hope that rational sense would prevail and the war could be stopped, at least, for the benefit of the suffering people, if not for anybody.


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