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Inside Story

Myanmar: Steps towards peace?

As the government signs an agreement with Kachin rebels, we ask if a new political culture is emerging.

Last Modified: 11 Oct 2013 09:38
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The government of Myanmar and separatist ethnic Kachin rebels have signed an agreement in what has been billed as a key step towards a ceasefire in one of the world's longest-running insurgencies.

Under the new agreement, both sides have committed to working towards political dialogue to resolve a conflict that has, according to the UN, forced about 100,000 people from their homes and livelihoods.

I think it’s very significant for Myanmar that the generals as well as the independent army are talking peace, and that would mean that at some point of time you could probably explore the option of amending the constitution ....

Sourav Roy, an Asian affairs analyst

There had been a 17-year-long ceasefire. But that ended in June 2011, two months after the country's current, nominally civilian, government took power.

Since then, the fighting has been sporadic but brutal and has included air strikes.

But, it seems that the government is now determined to put the insurgency to rest, as it attempts to show the world that it is committed to reform and civilian rule - something the ongoing fighting has appeared to undermine.

Myanmar's military leaders began the transition to civilian rule in 2011, in a move that was applauded around the world.
 
That progress is now being officially recognised, with the country set to be named the next chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

But it still has a long way to go.
 
Myanmar is plagued by widespread poverty and poor infrastructure, including an unreliable electricity supply. Communal violence is also a major issue, namely the persecution of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya sect by the country's Buddhist majority.

So, does this agreement signal the emergence of a new political culture in the country? And will it hold?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Veronica Pedrosa, is joined by guests: Maung Zarni, a visiting fellow at the London school of Economics; Matthew Smith, the executive director of Fortify Rights, a human rights agency specialising in Asia; and Sourav Roy, an Asian affairs analyst and columnist for Huffington Post. 

"At this point there is very little trust on the ground ... [in] the behaviour of the Myanmar military. Right now you've got over a thousand people displayed. But beyond that they [have] lost their homes, they lost their livelihoods. They are living in camps that are seriously lacking in terms of humanitarian aid .... There are still human rights violations taking place ... forced labour, civilian targets are being destroyed by the Myanmar army ... and there has been a mobilisation of troops while these talks are happening, so there are very serious concerns on the ground."

Matthew Smith, the executive director of Fortify Rights

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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