icon caret Arrow Down Arrow Left Arrow Right Arrow Up Line Camera icon set icon set Ellipsis icon set Facebook Favorite Globe Hamburger List Mail Map Marker Map Microphone Minus PDF Play Print RSS Search Share Trash Crisiswatch Alerts and Trends Box - 1080/761 Copy Twitter Video Camera  copyview Whatsapp Youtube
Visualising the Dynamics of Combat and Negotiations in Donbas
Visualising the Dynamics of Combat and Negotiations in Donbas
Report 261 / Asia

缅甸:若开邦的政治

  • Share
  • Save
  • Print
  • Download PDF Full Report

执行摘要

 若开邦当下情势混杂了一系列恶性因素,其中包括根源深长的中央政府与边陲地区的紧张关系、针对穆斯林少数族裔的社群间及宗教间的严重冲突、以及极端贫困和发展欠缺。这引发了2012年的大规模暴力事件以及随后爆发的零星冲突。政治气氛已然处于高温状态,并可能随着缅甸2015年底全国大选的逼近而继续升高。若开邦的形势对缅甸政治转型的整体成功形成了重大威胁,并在政府亟需国际支持和投资之际,使其声誉严重受损。制定任何政策方案的前提是意识到任何简单办法或者快捷途径是不存在的。若开邦所面临的问题根源于数十年的武装暴力、威权统治以及国家——社会冲突。这场危机已经波及全邦以及其中的所有社群。化解危机需要一个持续和多角度的解决方案,并需要在过渡时期提供至关重要的人道主义和保护性干预。

 对若开邦局势的失败处理将会造成全国性影响。缅甸正在将自身重塑为一个与各少数民族和平相处、尊重多元化的更加开放的社会,狭隘且歧视性民粹主义的萌芽将会成长为巨大祸根,为政治解决数十年武装冲突,包括建立一个联邦国家,造成严重困难。

 若开邦最大的族群是信奉佛教的若开族,穆斯林在少数民族中为数不少,其中包括得不到缅甸政府和若开邦承认的罗兴亚人。国际上趋向于将若开族一概视为暴力极端主义分子,而忽略族群内存在的多种观点、忽视若开族本身也是一个长期受压迫的少数民族这一事实、并且很少试图去理解他们的想法和顾虑。这样的态度显然于事无补,因为其强化了若开族四面受敌的心态,并且将复杂现实简单模糊化,而对这一现实的准确把握是寻求可持续解决方案的必要条件。

 与缅甸其他少数民族类似,若开族人的积怨源于长期遭受政府歧视、对本民族事务缺乏政治控制、经济边缘化、人权受侵犯以及在语言和文化表达上受到的限制。然而若开族人积累了数十年的怨愤已经开始变形。自从向新政府的转型以来,在重建社区和重新树立民族身份的过程中,许多若开族人日益将人口数量对比视为最直接和明显的威胁,并由此担心将在自己本邦中成为少数民族。且不论有理与否,此类担忧在若开族社群中无疑十分强烈。

 多年来,穆斯林社群在社会和政治生活中被日益边缘化,而罗兴亚人受害尤甚。很多人长期得不到完整的公民权利,致使生存手段和生活水平严重受损。目前有人正试图通过立法剥夺他们的公民权,此举可能成为导火索。罗兴亚人视公民身份为仅存的与政治的联系纽带和影响政治的手段,失去了公民权,他们很可能得出政治大门已经关闭的结论,并可能由此走向非暴力反抗,甚至有组织暴力的路径。

 缅甸政府当下应对方案的核心包括一个核实无身份证明的穆斯林的公民身份的试点项目,以及一个在更大范围内应对政治、安全和发展问题的“行动计划”,但两者都存在严重问题。政府和若开族人社区拒绝使用“罗兴亚人”这个名称,罗兴亚人同样强烈地反对“孟加拉人”这个称呼,这成了一个死结。这一问题还未得到解决,对穆斯林人的公民身份核实项目就已经开始进行,大部分罗兴亚人可能采取抵制。

 行动计划设想将被授予公民权的人迁移到新的定居点,而非返回他们原本的家园,此举有可能会强化种族隔离。那些被确定为非公民,或拒不接受核实的人,可能会在达成解决方案前不得不暂居营地,这实际上可能会是很长时间。另外,许多穆斯林可能会被赋予入籍公民身份,因此得不到完整公民身份所具有的保障和多项权利。

 公民身份本身并不能自动提升穆斯林人口的权利。卡曼族的困境就是很明显的例子,他们从出生就拥有完整公民身份,而且其土著群体身份也获得了承认,但是由于他们的伊斯兰信仰,许多人被限制在难民营中,没有自由迁徙或返回家园的可能。由此可见,公民身份是改善权利的必要条件,而非充分条件。终结包括迁徙限制在内的歧视政策,改善安全环境与加强法治也同样必不可少。

 若开族佛教徒和穆斯林社区的需求与期望很可能无法调和,缅甸政府因此面临重大挑战。在此环境下,必须在保护穆斯林的基本权利和自由的同时,寻求缓解若开族担忧的途径。打击极端主义思想和仇恨言论的努力也同样重要,否则当下任意表达仇恨观点并据此行动而不受惩罚的大环境将无法得到改善。暴力的倡导者和实施者必须被及时抓捕归案,这在目前很少发生。及时执法不仅能维护正义,还有助于政治稳定和提升实现和平解决方案的可能性。

 政治解决方案可能不会立竿见影,即便如此也不能无所作为。危机的解决不仅对若开邦,而且对全缅甸都至关重要。防止极端主义暴力需要立即启动有公信力的程序,向若开族和穆斯林社区证明政治道路是存在的。更广泛地说,除非缅甸成功地塑造新的国家认同感,以包容这个国家极具多元化的文化、种族和宗教,否则就与全国范围的和平与稳定继续无缘。与此同时,国际社会也必须继续向弱势群体提供亟需的人道主义援助和保护,这可能会持续数年。同样关键的是解决若开邦所有社群都面临的长期贫穷和欠发展问题,公平和有针对性的村级社区发展项目尤为重要。

 仰光/布鲁塞尔,2014年10月22日

Boys stay on top of the war memorial complex Savur-Mohyla, damaged in the recent conflict, outside the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Ukraine 8 September 2020. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Visualising the Dynamics of Combat and Negotiations in Donbas

Efforts to bring peace to Ukraine’s Donbas region have been deadlocked for years. The steps the belligerents take to de-escalate violence can save lives, but people still die on the front lines and beyond. Crisis Group’s new visual explainer puts these dynamics in stark relief.

The war in eastern Ukraine began in March 2014. It pits separatists backed by Russia against the Ukrainian government in two industrial regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, which are part of an area known as Donbas. The war was ugliest in its first year, when battles raged for territory and strategic position. Two peace agreements – known as the Minsk agreements of 2014 and 2015 – put an end to the major fighting. They also laid out a roadmap for the reabsorption of the separatist-controlled regions into Ukraine, which calls, among other things, for Kyiv to grant these areas limited self-governing status. Implementation has stalled, however, and in the meantime some 75,000 troops – mostly Ukrainian citizens on both sides – still face off along a 450km front that cleaves Donbas in two. Some 800,000 civilians also live in the line of fire, while several million others reside in areas ridden with mines and unexploded shells. The death toll for the conflict creeps upward nearly every week and is now over 14,000.

Crisis Group’s new interactive feature, “Conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas: A Visual Explainer”, maps both military and civilian casualties and illustrates the links between ceasefires and lulls in combat. It shows that ceasefires work – until they crack under the weight of deadlocked negotiations. It further shows that civilian casualties from live fire clearly correlate with intense combat in urban and suburban areas, falling to almost nil when ceasefires are in place. Civilian casualties from mines, however, do not correlate with whether or not a ceasefire is in place and have lately risen, likely due to increased foot traffic through heavily mined areas.

Taken together, the data presented by this new explainer indicate that in the absence of a durable political solution, if the parties want to honour their stated intent to limit civilian casualties, they should commit to disengagement from high-traffic areas and to comprehensive demining. Both of these steps are hard sells to field commanders, for whom holding territory generally takes precedence. But disengagement is the only way to bring casualty rates reliably down, short of the impractical exercise of relocating civilians away from danger.

Combat Kills Civilians

The geography of the Donbas war all but guarantees civilian casualties. The front, known as the line of separation or line of contact, runs right through what was once the most densely populated part of Ukraine. Its central segments curve around coal mines, coke foundries and steel plants, while the southern and northern ends cut through farmland and picturesque meadows previously used for recreation. Dotting the combat zone on either side of the front are apartment blocks and weekend homes with garden plots. Today, industries are functioning at a fraction of their former capacity. Fields lie fallow, littered with mines and shells, while fighters on both sides have taken over vacation and retirement homes. Most families with the means to do so have left.

But some have stayed. Roughly 200,000 residents remain within 5km of the line of separation on the government-controlled side, while their neighbours just over the trenches number roughly 600,000. Any exchange of fire endangers the lives and disrupts the livelihoods of large numbers of people, a significant portion of them elderly.

Crisis Group’s visual explainer tracks civilian and combatant casualties, differentiating them by cause. It shows, for instance, that the vast majority – roughly 80 per cent – of live-fire (shelling and gunfire) civilian casualties occur in areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists. The ebb and flow of civilian casualties in these areas largely tracks with those of military casualties. The higher civilian casualty rate in non-government-controlled areas is due to the fact that these places are more urban and populous. Users of Crisis Group’s map can see that these casualties are concentrated around the front’s central section near the separatist-controlled cities of Donetsk and Horlivka, but also bleed across the line into the former Donetsk suburb of Mariinka, which Ukrainian government forces hold. Horlivka and the Donetsk suburbs are fairly densely populated. The high civilian casualties there may also be related to the position of combatants: troops on both sides are posted in residential streets or very close to them.

Civilian casualties are heavily concentrated in the most populous, urban areas of the front line, near Donetsk and Horlivka.

In Hirske and Kadiivka districts, where combatant deaths since the start of 2020 have been highest, civilian casualties from live fire also closely track combatant casualties, in that they go up and down in tandem. But civilian casualty numbers are also lower than in Donetsk or Horlivka, likely because most troops are dug in farther away from large towns. Together, the numbers suggest that neither side is trying to hit civilians but also that combatants are not doing all they can to avoid collateral damage.

Ceasefires Save Lives

To assess the impact of ceasefires on casualties, Crisis Group charted the latter over time, noting each ceasefire agreement on a line graph. This simple analysis indicates that whatever else they do, and however short-lived they may be, ceasefires do save lives: each ceasefire is closely correlated with a reduction in casualties, and the stricter its provisions, the fewer the casualties.

Levels of violence in the combat zone drop after ceasefires are in place.

The most recent ceasefire, which had particularly strict provisions, had the greatest effect. Commencing in July 2020, it banned combatants from initiating firefights for any reason and imposed strict limitations on return fire, as well. In the seven months that followed the agreement, combatant fatalities dropped to less than half the number in the seven months prior (82 killed by live fire between January and July 2020, and 36 between August 2020 and February 2021), while civilian deaths and injuries from live fire fell from 50 to 5 in the same period, with almost no civilians hurt from August 2020 to 30 January 2021 (two civilians suffered hearing loss due to an explosion on 12 November). As further evidence of the agreement’s effectiveness, in comments to Ukrainian media and to Crisis Group, front-line dwellers spoke of improved security after it was signed.

Although the visual explainer covers only the period from January 2020 to the present day, data from 2019 tells a similar story. Then, too, a ceasefire went into effect in July. Of the 56 casualties from live fire that UN monitors recorded between 16 May and 15 August 2019, all but one occurred before the ceasefire.

New Casualty Trends

The data breakdown also shows that while both civilian and combatant casualties from heavy weaponry in the past seven months remain lower than before the July 2020 ceasefire, small arms fire during this period accounts for a larger portion of casualties. The use of heavy weaponry like artillery and mortars is prohibited by the Minsk agreements and has in fact declined.

But both sides are still using these weapons on occasion, so the reduction of casualties also suggests that they have been able to better calibrate their fire using drones and other modern equipment in order to lessen collateral damage. Civilian casualties from heavy weapons declined fivefold year-on-year in the first six months of 2021, while casualties from small arms held steady. Combatant casualties from heavy weapons also fell, albeit less dramatically, even as deaths among Ukrainian government troops from small arms – and sniper fire, in particular – have risen from eighteen in 2020 to 24 in 2021 to date. This uptick is consistent with Crisis Group interviews and Ukrainian media reports pointing to increased activity by Russian-backed (and allegedly Russian) snipers.

A breakdown of civilian casualties by cause and type. Casualties from live fire have decreased, while those from mines and explosive objects have increased.

Additionally, as civilian casualties from live fire have fallen in the past year, deaths and injuries from mines and unexploded ordnance have crept up: these accounted for one fourth of casualties in 2020-2021, but doubled year-on-year in the first half of 2021. Throughout the eighteen-month period, the bulk of such casualties have occurred along the banks of the Siversky Donets river, which divides the government-controlled part of the Luhansk region from the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic. The forests through which the river runs are heavily mined but see almost no live fire. More people than usual may be tramping through the forests because economic decline associated with COVID-19 is forcing them to collect firewood for fuel. Many are also fishing in the river for sustenance. Reports also suggest that residents are smuggling food and other goods across the river, which puts them at risk, though it is not clear whether they have stepped up this activity recently or not. Meanwhile, in other areas, the drop-off in live fire may simply mean that residents feel comfortable wandering farther from home, increasing their chances of tripping mines.

Map showing the geographic distribution of mine-related incidents over time. The worst-affected areas flank the Siversky Donets river in Luhansk region.

Why Do Ceasefires Fail?

The July 2020 ceasefire was perhaps the sole diplomatic success in a period otherwise marked by deepening acrimony between the two sides. Throughout 2020 and 2021, the parties undertook a series of tit-for-tat measures that have made the Minsk agreements’ eventual implementation look less and less likely. In June 2020, the parliament in Kyiv passed a decree stating that Ukraine would recognise elections held in areas controlled by Russia-backed separatists only after the government had regained control of the eastern border, contradicting a controversial provision of the agreements. The separatist regions’ de facto authorities retaliated by holding up progress in fulfilling commitments to prisoner exchanges, sectoral military disengagements and enhanced civilian freedom of movement. In September 2020, the sides fell into a bitter dispute over an attempt at joint inspection of troop positions near the city of Horlivka, as well as later efforts to establish a joint mechanism for monitoring ceasefire violations. Three months later, in December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his annual press conference that Kyiv had almost given up on the Minsk accords – and promised to increase Moscow’s support for the de facto republics, which also undercut the deal.

From that point onward, violence increased steadily. From August through November 2020, the average day saw fewer than ten explosions along the front, but December saw several days with more than 100, with the total sometimes nearing 200. At least eight combatants were killed that month, followed by another seven in January and 21 in February. April 2021 was the deadliest month for combatants since January 2020, with 22 fatalities on both sides combined.

Combat casualties declined in the first months of the July 2020 ceasefire.

That month, Russia massed troops near Ukraine’s border in numbers not seen since 2015, when its forces had helped wage a series of devastating battles on Ukrainian soil. It did so on the pretext of a spike in ceasefire violations at the front, although the separatists it backed were just as responsible as Ukrainian forces for the infractions.

Increasing violence does suggest ... that when peace talks lose momentum, both parties see diminishing incentives to exercise restraint

Moscow’s troop build-up was likely about geopolitical signalling rather than a prelude to a possible incursion. But if, on this occasion, violence in Donbas provided the Kremlin with a convenient, if dubious, alibi for its aggressive behaviour, it does not follow that every uptick in fighting stems from a particular side’s pursuit of political goals. Increasing violence does suggest, however, that when peace talks lose momentum, both parties see diminishing incentives to exercise restraint. As a Ukrainian commander told Crisis Group in 2020, the army needs to either fight or disengage: along the Donbas front lines, troops can hold their fire for only so long in the absence of steps toward peace. Yet, as the April scare demonstrates, any escalation at the front risks handing Moscow an excuse to further threaten Kyiv.

Obstacles to Protecting Civilians

Both sides claim to be defending the lives of their Ukrainian compatriots, suggesting that they should be motivated to agree to better protect civilians. In practice, however, things are not so simple, and military calculations generally prevail over humanitarian concerns.

Separatist leaders have shown themselves more than willing to use civilian casualties for propaganda purposes. Noting that the de facto republics’ constituents make up the majority of live-fire casualties, they cite the numbers of dead and wounded as proof of Kyiv’s villainy. They have also been known to spread highly dubious reports of civilian deaths, possibly to garner greater support from their patrons in Moscow. For example, in April 2021, as Russia was deploying troops to areas bordering Ukraine, they announced that a Ukrainian drone strike had killed a five-year-old boy in a Donetsk suburb. In fact, the boy had died some 15km from the front, out of the Ukrainian drones’ range, possibly by setting off an unexploded shell he found in his yard. (Indeed, Crisis Group data shows that 75 per cent of incidents in which children were killed or injured by unexploded ordnance in 2020-2021 occurred in separatist-held areas, pointing to a genuine problem that de facto authorities should confront.) Meanwhile, de facto officials tend to be unwilling to admit that shooting from positions in areas like the Donetsk suburbs can provoke return fire and lead to civilian deaths. They have baulked at suggestions that they move their troops to keep locals out of the line of fire.

On the other side, public figures in government-controlled Ukraine sometimes overlook or minimise the problem of civilian casualties from live fire. Losses among civilians frequently do not make it into Ukrainian news reports, partly due to journalists’ lack of access to reliable sources in areas across the line; media tends to focus on the heroism of government troops. Some Ukrainians sticking up for the military imply that civilians, particularly in the separatist-controlled areas, are themselves to blame for their fate, having stubbornly remained in their homes while soldiers, as the troops’ defenders see it, are risking life and limb for a greater cause. “Do you think we didn’t have grandmothers when we went off to die? Maybe these are people, but they are not citizens”, a renowned veteran told Crisis Group in 2019, while expressing frustration at President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s promises to wind down combat in Donbas.

Efforts to limit civilian casualties through stricter ceasefire provisions have also triggered backlash against Ukrainian officials. In mid-2019, Kyiv proposed a ban on return fire. President Zelenskyy’s press secretary defended the proposal, arguing that when government troops shoot back at opponents positioned in populated areas, “our people die, our Ukrainians”. Opposition politicians accused Kyiv of ignoring the imperatives of fighting an invading force; high-ranking military personnel accused the press secretary of defamation, activists said she was echoing Russian propaganda and Ukraine’s prosecutor general summoned her for questioning on the grounds that she was assisting the enemy. The proposal was dropped for the time being, and the sides struck a more lenient agreement. But that 2019 agreement proved weaker, shorter-lived and less clearly beneficial for civilians than the one that followed in 2020, which did integrate a ban on return fire. If avoiding the issue of return fire may have short-term tactical and political benefits, the consequences of doing so deepen resentment among civilians on both sides and only make Kyiv’s climb toward reintegrating its lost territories steeper.

What to Do

The steps that would save lives are evident but difficult. Crisis Group has in the past recommended pursuing mutual disengagement in areas of high civilian traffic. Demining would also help. But international observers with knowledge of the negotiations say combatants are unlikely to disengage from high-traffic areas – which happen to be where the worst fighting of 2014-2015 occurred, as both sides consider them strategically and symbolically significant – without a comprehensive peace settlement. Nor do specialists think that either side – particularly not the de facto republics – will pursue demining as long as fighting continues.

As neither disengagement nor demining is likely, and neither military will move the trenches away from inhabited areas, a few Kyiv lawmakers have proposed relocating inhabitants of those areas as a way to save civilian lives. The idea has many downsides, among them its impracticability in the highly populated non-government-controlled areas. In government-controlled Ukraine, it may be more feasible, and perhaps more acceptable to the population. According to aid workers and staff at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe ceasefire monitoring mission, more front-line dwellers are seeking to move away than in previous years. Those who stayed to be closer to loved ones on the other side of the line of separation can no longer see them anyway, due to COVID-19 restrictions, even as lockdowns have deepened the economic woes of cities and towns along the front.

The two sides will need to decide that costs of a simmering conflict outweigh the risks of compromise

In any case, none of these measures – disengagement, demining, or relocation – will bring the region the peace that it truly needs. For peace to come, the two sides will need to decide that costs of a simmering conflict outweigh the risks of compromise and an imperfect solution. Crisis Group has developed the visual explainer to illustrate the costs both sides are incurring, as well as the unpredictability and volatility of military activity at the Donbas front lines. The explainer also demonstrates that diplomacy – including that aimed at ceasefires – reduces the level of combat and saves lives. Breaking ceasefires, conversely, gives no one an advantage. In 2020-2021, a period during which a ceasefire was instituted and then fell apart, the two sides appear to have suffered a comparable number of deaths – 146 among the separatists and 112 in the Ukrainian army. Collapsed ceasefires favour neither side; they just lead to a bloodier stalemate.