By Maji Yaw Htung,
KIO-Burmese Government Delegation Meeting in Ruili
Not all conflicts are bad and dangerous, for example, conflicting on the idea and concept could be supportive for human societies or at least for some groups because people can have choices for their best means of interests. Therefore, conflicts are fine as long as they do not turn into violent forms to which human societies can suffer.
Likewise, current armed conflict between KIO/KIA and government is one of the serious violent conflicts. Consequently, thousands of people in the region are suffering. For example, hundreds of villages have been burned and properties have been devastated; thousands of people have been displaced; civilians have been killed in the armed conflicts. Thereby atrocities and hatred have been increasing particularly between the Kachin and Burmese. For these reasons, current armed conflict has to be resolved through appropriate means and processes.
Ceasefire was made fortunately between KIO/KIA and former military government for a certain extent of period between 1994 and 2010. However, current armed conflicts seriously broke out since 2011 because the central government pressured the KIO/KIA to turn into border guard force. Since then the government used intense armed forces such as jet fighters, helicopter gunships, and 105 mm howitzers, and so on (Kuppuswamy, 2014). As a result, approximately there are 100, 000 IDPs in both Kachin state and Northern Shan state (KWAT, 2012 cited by Lut, 2013:2). After armed conflicts have been escalated, Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) and Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG), as mediators, have attempted several peace talks between KIO/KIA and the central government. The role of PCG is to mediate between only KIO/KIA and the government in providing the financial assistance to have the peace talks (Myanmar Peace Monitor, 2015). On the other hand, the role of MPC is to mediate between Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and government, in which NCCT represents United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) comprising sixteen ethnic armed groups including KIO/KIA (Mizzima, 2015).
Currently, on the one hand, the armed conflicts have been going on, and on the other hand, peace talks have been convened between KIO/KIA and central government. In this case, the conflict transformation is to embrace the core elements of cultural and structural peacebuilding because the conflict is ingrained in both cultural and structure. Current conflicts and peace process can be analyzed through hourglass model of conflict resolution. The hourglass model comprises the narrow and wide spaces meaning that narrowing political space is linked with conflict escalation, and widening political space, on the other hand, is said to be conflict de-escalation (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, and Miall, 2005:12). Language, culture and religion of the Kachin and the majority Burmese are totally different, for instance most Kachin are Christians and most Burmese are Buddhists. More importantly, political discriminations have become very problematic of the conflicts in terms of structural violence because there are no elected Kachin representatives in the government former and current regimes. Therefore, political space of the KIO/KIA is the crux of armed conflict meaning if political rights are widened by the central government, the conflicts would also be de-escalated.
According to Azar’s analysis on protracted social conflict (PSC), there are four dimensions. In the first dimension, the relationship between groups and the state, in which post-colonial states have become dominated by a single communal group or a coalition of a few communal groups that are not responsive to other groups in terms of divide and rule as a colonial legacy. Consequently, the state fails in fulfilling social needs as the impact of lack of political participation (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, and Miall, 2005:86). Likewise, current armed conflict between KIO/KIA and central government has been impinged from social needs impacted from lack of political participation of the Kachin within appropriate political framework, instead not only were different dictators but also the majority Burmese have ruled the state. In addition, despite the fact that the Kachin state is rich in natural resources such as jade, timber, gold, and other mineral resources, the local people have become poorer and poorer. As a result, such failure of individual needs have been linked with the political struggle of the KIO/KIA as well. Therefore, current armed conflicts have been part the conflicts that have been long for more than half of a century. Lund (2006:40) states that interstate conflicts and intrastate conflicts often have been clashes between status quo order and a rival new order. Thus, the competing entitlement and rights antagonistic to each claim are inalienable under these respective contending orders. These statements are true for current scenario of armed conflict between KIO/KIA and the government because the conflict was the clash between status quo order and a rival new order of the result of emerging current government so called democratic government which pressured on KIO/KIA turning into border guard force after fourteen years of ceasefire between 1994 and 2010 meaning 14 years of ceasefire as status quo have been clashed and there has been a new political rival order between KIO/KIA and the new central government so called democratic government since the government is emphatic through current 2008 constitution which is not recognized by ethnic armed groups including KIO/KIA.
Conflict resolution is broad enough to compare conflict termination meaning conflict resolution and ending conflict can be sequent or interchangeable in terms of peacekeeping and peacemaking. Therefore, it can be said that while conflict settlement has been ongoing, wars from the ground could produce more issues. As a result, conflict resolution sometimes cannot address the root causes (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, and Miall, 2005:159). In the case of current armed conflict between KIO/KIA and government, the processes of peacekeeping and peacemaking are interchangeably ongoing of the peace process. For example, while negotiation process on the draft Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) between NCCT and the government has been ongoing, helicopter gunships had been firing on KIO/KIA front lines (Radio Free Asia, 2015).
Recently, after seven round of peace talks between NCCT and government, the draft NCA was signed on 31 March 2015, at the same time armed conflicts have been going on not only in Kachin state, but also in Shan state, Rakhine state and Kokang region, in which in Shan state and Kokang region, Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF/TNLA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) are those apposing, in Rakhine state Arkan Army (AA) is apposing with arms (Keenan, 2015). The draft NCA is a very first stage to reach genuine peace meaning there remain many issues to be negotiated, therefore there is a long way to go for genuine nationwide peace.
In this case, since KIO/KIA is one of the ethnic armed groups entailing in NCCT, two scenarios such as Ostrich and Lame Duck of the Mount Fleur Scenarios of South Africa which was held at the Mount Fleur and participated by 22 diverse groups, namely South Africans-politicians, activists, academics, and businessmen, can be good examples to address current armed conflict. In the case of Ostrich scenario, it is stated “[a] government does not want to face realities. And ostrich supposedly hides its head in the sand when danger threatens. The ostrich does not want to see, cannot fly, but has to lift its head in the end” (Roux and Maphai, et al., 2015:11). Likewise, despite the fact that armed conflicts for self-determination, KIO/KIA in particular are going on, Myanmar (Burma) government led by president Thein Sein tend to ignore as if it were not serious, at the same time Myanmar (Burma) Army is holding six points guiding principles within peace talks with NCCT in which marching towards a democratic country through current 2008 constitution in particular has become one of the stumbling blocks, on the other hand, the ethnic armed groups particularly of KIO/KIA demands to form a genuine federal democratic country. If so, the government seems to continue as non-representative government. In the case of second scenario of Lame Duck, it is implied that “Lame Duck envisages a formal, protracted transition lasting for most of the coming decade. The image is that of a bird with a broken wing. No matter how hard it tries, it cannot get off the ground, and thus has an extremely uncertain future” (Roux and Maphai, et al., 2015:13). The point is that, as genuine NCA does not seem to be reached during a certain extent of period, instead another national election, which will be held at the end of 2015, is approaching for a new national government. As a consequence, so-called democratic transition period seems to take unpredictable phase and it is most likely that the incapacitated government with non-representatives continues.
Therefore conflict resolution and conflict termination will keep on going further until the resolution, in this case, NCA is reached for political and military resettlement.
As discussed, although current armed conflicts between KIO/KIA and government have begun recently, the root causes are ingrained in political, economic and social factors. Therefore, the conflicts can be linked with what Galtung calls “the conflict triangle”, in which attitude (A), behavior (B), and contradiction (C) are the root causes of all conflicts (1996:72). Therefore, current case of armed conflicts can be traced with this conflict triangle, in which all political, economic and social matters have been embedded as structure and culture violence within attitude (A) and contradiction (C) angles between the Burmese majority and the Kachin. As a consequence, current armed conflict has become direct violence as behavior (B).
Peace-building was said to be post-conflict process, in which reconstruction infrastructures and reconciliation amongst leaders and societies are emphasized as conflict resolution (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, and Miall, 2005:215). Therefore, technically, current armed conflicts between KIO/KIA and government could not be peace-building process yet. However, some civil societies, NGOs and INGOs attempt for reconciliation. For instance, traumatic healings and reducing hatred have been conducted. Hence, to sum up, peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace-building on current armed conflicts between KIO/KIA and government can be overlapping, in which each step could be static. Therefore, any appropriate means should be approached for further conflict resolutions, for which it could be among groups of societies or among middle and top leaders.
Maji Yaw Htung is a PhD student in Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol Univesity in Thailand.
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