Yesterday Daw Aung San Suu Kyi released an open letter to Burma’s generals and ethnic armed groups, urging the immediate beginning of peace talks. With civil war and human rights abuses growing, she pledges “to do everything in [her] power towards the cessation of armed conflicts and building peace in the Union.” A number of ethnic leaders have responded positively to Daw Suu’s letter, saying the message carries “great potential.”
This is no surprise, as genuine peace talks is something that these ethnic armed groups have has as an ongoing demand for awhile.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s efforts for peace are a really good move. Not only ethnic armed groups but also all pro-democracy forces in the country want and have long called for a political dialogue to resolve ongoing conflicts,” La Nan, joint-secretary of the Kachin Independence Organization, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, shortly after reading the letter.
Zipporah Sein, general secretary of the Karen National Union, said in an interview with the Irrawaddy “the KNU takes the same stand that conflicts have to be resolved politically through dialogue.” She also added something crucial, “We need peace for the Union. But the prolonged conflicts are caused by dictatorships, not ethnic minorities,” she said.
The United Nationalities Federal Council, an alliance of ethnic armed groups, has stated that their goals are to create unity amongst the different ethnic nationalities in Burma, create a genuine system of a multi-party democracy, and especially to achieve this through dialogue. Their call for dialogue is identical to the one that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic forces have also been calling for. Commonly referred to as “tripartite dialogue” it means that there will be a dialogue of national reconciliation between representatives from ethnic communities, democratic forces, and the military. Only then will a lasting solution be found.
With conflict growing, especially in Northern Burma, the need for real peace talks is increasingly important. The military regime though takes a different approach then what. They do not want lasting peace. They if If they do hold talks with anyone, they limit it to a single group. They also do not want unity between the various groups, divide and conquer has always been their tactic. Furthermore, their proposals are weak and will only ensure continued control by the military. The military regime has recently started a major offensive against the Shan groups. They aren’t engaging in any negotiations though, just attacking with the belief that they can wipe out the Shan armed groups.
Eastern Burma has been facing ongoing conflict for decades. There have been 3,600 villages destroyed, relocated, or abandoned since 1996. There are still close to half a million people displaced in eastern Burma. See map below.
Peace is not a minor issue with Burma. It is crucial that the international community provide maximum pressure to get the military regime to engage in genuine talks of reconciliation.