Yesterday, the government in Myanmar signed an agreement with eight ethnic groups to cease-fire. Fighting between various ethnic groups with different religions, cultures, and languages, and the government continues to impact communities throughout borders across Myanmar.
Over 240,000 men, women and children are internally displaced in the country, primarily along borders in the Kachin State. And the government is making some progress by trying to use peaceful action to end conflict instead of the violence the country has known for decades.
Civil war between Myanmar’s government and ethnic groups has been ongoing for sixty-three years since the country gained independence from Britain in 1948. It has been one of the longest battles for peace a country has ever known. Conflict between ethnic groups and government in Myanmar is the longest in human history, according to some sources.
So looking on the bright side does not come easily when a cease-fire agreement occurs.
Many remain skeptical that this cease-fire agreement addresses issues such as what the balance of power between the government and ethnic groups will be in the future.
Others are concerned ethnic groups along the Chinese border were not included.
And two of the largest of the ethnic groups, the Kachin and the Wa did not sign the agreement.
However, some remain optimistic, like Aung Naing Oo, Director for the Peace Dialogue at the Myanmar Peace Center, who says, “a final cease-fire deal encompassing most groups would create an enabling environment for others to join later.”
So, how is this a step in the right direction?
This is not the first cease-fire agreement--it’s actually one of thirty-five.
But it’s the first ceasefire agreement Myanmar’s government signed in two years. And here’s what’s different and why I think its shows movement on the track to a better future.
Peace in Myanmar is a priority finally. And yes, sometimes signed agreements do not include all, or are not followed by all. But getting government officials and eight of the sixteen armed ethnic groups engaged in war is progress toward peace and justice (Global Goal 16 by the way).
Signing the ceasefire agreement yesterday was a big step forward because it transitions both ethnic groups and the government away from using force to come to agreements, and creates the possibility of a platform for peaceful discussions.
The cease-fire agreement brings ethnic groups into political dialogues and recognizes them as political organizations.
Which is a major breakthrough considering democracy in the country was only restored in 2010. And peaceful dialogue has only been a method for ending conflict in Myanmar since 2011 when President Thein Sein asked for peaceful negotiations not armed conflict.
President Thein Sein made peace and justice a focal point for Myanmar, so with elections taking place on November 8th, this is an interesting time to keep an eye on actions and agreements within the country.
Though it seems like a long road to achieving Global Goal 16: Peace and Justice for all, every effort world leaders take to promote fair discussions and avoid armed conflict is a step in the right direction.
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