A Tentative Peace in Myanmar’s Kachin Conflict
12 Jun 2013
The deal that has now been struck between the Myanmar government and the Kachin armed group is a major step forward, but securing a sustainable peace will require much more work.
“Reaching a peace agreement between the government and the KIO has been one of the biggest challenges of the overall ethnic peace process. But before this peace can be claimed, many difficult underlying political issues need to be resolved.”
Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director
In its latest briefing, A Tentative Peace in Myanmar’s Kachin Conflict, the International Crisis Group examines the preliminary peace agreement that the Myanmar government signed with the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), the last of the eleven major armed ethnic groups to sign an agreement since 2011. This represents a major opportunity to secure lasting peace not only in Kachin State, but in the country as a whole. Yet, there will be major challenges in doing so.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
- This agreement is different from the last ceasefire agreement signed with the KIO in 1994 as it comes after a period of unprecedented political and economic reform in the country. If more far-sighted decisions are taken this time around by the central government, the KIO and Kachin civic leaders, a more sustainable peace economy could emerge that would distribute greater economic and social benefits to communities.
- Key issues still need to be discussed and agreed, including the repositioning of troops from both sides to reduce the chance of clashes, a monitoring mechanism, and a comprehensive political dialogue.
- Major steps also need to be taken to develop an equitable peace economy. In particular, the exploitation of Kachin’s significant natural resources, if not appropriately regulated, could compound inequalities and trigger renewed conflict.
- Much remains to be done to avoid a repeat of the failures of the previous ceasefire process. More detailed negotiations will be required with all the groups that have signed ceasefires. A broader multiparty political dialogue needs to be started that addresses the ethnic aspirations and grievances of all these groups.
“An end to the conflict is crucial for relief, rehabilitation and development initiatives to begin, but peace brings with it new risks for the people of Kachin State”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Recent experience from ceasefires in other parts of Myanmar points to a potential increase in land grabs and exploitative and environmentally damaging resource extraction activities. This is a particular risk in Kachin State, given its enormously valuable natural resources”.
“Reaching a peace agreement between the government and the KIO has been one of the biggest challenges of the overall ethnic peace process”, says Della-Giacoma. “But before this peace can be claimed, many difficult underlying political issues need to be resolved. There is no guarantee of success”.