ICC Note: The government of Myanmar has announced that a peace agreement has been reached, but as this article indicates, there are still large parts of the country that have not been included in that accord. These areas are also plagued with flooding and food shortages, which may impact Myanmar’s November elections.
By Lawrence Gam
9/09/2015 Myanmar (AsiaNews.it)
Myanmar authorities and representatives of the country’s ethnic minorities have resumed talks in connection with an expected ceasefire. Meanwhile, the fate of refugees in combat zones, especially in Kachin and Shan states, is deteriorating, a situation made that much worse by cuts in aid.
President Thein Sein met with representatives of ethnic groups today in Naypyidaw, urging them to sign a ceasefire before the national general elections, scheduled for 8 November. He also met with representatives of five rebel groups who have accepted talks out of the dozen or so that have been fighting the government.
Despite the meetings, the government and rebel groups still disagree over exactly who should sign the ceasefire. Many rebels want the inclusion of several groups not recognised by the authorities that are still fighting the government.
In a country of about 135 ethnic groups, peaceful coexistence has always been a struggle, especially with the central government, which is dominated by ethnic Burmese.
In the past, the ruling military junta used an iron fist against the groups least amenable to central control, like ethnic Kachin, who live along the border with China in the north, and more recently, ethnic Kokang in Shan state, where the president imposed a state of emergency.
In Kachin State, fighting between the Myanmar military and Kachin forces resumed in June 2011 after 17 years of relative calm. Since then, scores of civilians have died and almost 100,000 people forced into 160 refugee camps.
In view of the situation, the country’s Catholic bishops issued a plea for a lasting solution to the conflict. Indeed, the Catholic Church and the local Caritas, which have played a leading role in delivering aid, said that things are at a “critical” stage, so much so that Mgr Raymond Sumlut Gam, bishop of Bhamo and president of Caritas Myanmar, called on international agencies, people of good will and Catholics throughout the world to provide “concrete help”.
This comes at a time as the situation in Kachin State and the northern part of Shan State has worsened. Complicating matters, the government has stopped humanitarian workers from travelling to areas under the control of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).