By Janice Freeman
Last October, a peace accord was signed in Myanmar with the aim of finally ending 60 years of violent civil war. However, this Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) has fallen quite short of its objective, as only eight of the fifteen ethnic groups invited to sign did so, and others were not even permitted to take part in the negotiations. Further troublesome, however, is that more than 5,000 civilians in Myanmar have been displaced in the past two weeks by fighting between two ethnic armies, one of which signed the NCA.
Violent clashes broke out on February 7 in the Shan State townships of Kyaukme between the Restoration council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). With regards to the NCA, RCSS signed the agreement while the TNLA was excluded. The TNLA claims that its rival, the RCSS, has increased its troop presens in the Shan State from 80 to 1,700 troops since signing the accord and the TNLA is fighting to ensure its claim on the territory. Even more disturbing is that Myanmar researcher, Tom Kramer, believes that the military “must have allowed the RCSS to reinforce its presence in the northern Shan State” and that these actions of the RCSS wouldn’t have been possible before the NCA.
While the NCA may seem like a positive step forward for Myanmar’s powerful military, the Tatmadaw, many critics say it has exacerbated tensions between the ethnic groups who signed it and those that didn’t, as exemplified by the conflict in the Shan State. Some have even gone so far as to say that the Tatmadaw is purposefully using the NCA to turn armed groups against each other and weaken their power against the state.
There may be hope, however. Aung Saan Su Kyi’s National League for Democracy was victorious in Myanmar’s historic elections last November and many are hopeful that a more democratic government will strengthen the peace process. The authority over the negotiations lies with the military, however, so for now it is unclear how Su Kyi and her party will try to quell the violence and instill peace between all the armed groups in Myanmar.