Myanmar’s Peace Process (Part I)

« Myanmar’s Peace Process: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, Borderland Economies, Service Delivery, and other Post-Panglong Concerns » (Part I) by Bobby Anderson, 23/08/2017, Tea Circle (Oxford)

Myanmar’s history is defined by violence between a relatively stable lowland Bamar core and a fragile non-Bamar highland periphery. The country hosts numerous ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) including the world’s longest-running separatist insurgency. Since independence in 1948, Myanmar has never met Weber’s minimalist definition of a state as the holder of the monopoly of the use of physical force within a given territory. Beginning from a low point in 1948, when Karen separatists were assembled on the outskirts of Rangoon, Myanmar’s army or Tatmadaw grew over the years into a formidable military force as it asserted central control over all lowland areas, pushing insurgents year-by-year into more inhospitable and state-resistant terrain.

The country’s “Panglong 21” Peace Process, which seeks to end 70 years of insurgency in the country’s borderlands, has been subjected to significant criticism, not least from the participants themselves. Of the 17 EAOs who have signed the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), in July 2017, eight formed a “Peace Process Steering Team” to evaluate the current NCA, referring to it as a “deviation from the path they had envisioned.” Other EAOs excluded from signing by the Tatmadaw, and still others who declined to participate, have come together under a bloc, the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), led by the most powerful EAO in the country, the United Wa State Party, but the government refuses to negotiate with them collectively. A previous bloc, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), has, for all intents and purposes, fallen apart. Apparent from the process is the disconnect between the EAOs and the Tatmadaw in regard to sequencing: for example, EAOs want a political dialogue about the parameters of a federal state followed by security sector and constitutional reform, after which disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants (DDR) shall occur. Conversely, the Tatmadaw want DDR immediately, pressing for a disarmament prior to political negotiations. Each side has its own understanding of federalism that is, so far, incompatible with the other.

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