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Can Burma make a difference in peacemaking without hostilities?

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Decades of armed clashes in Burma or Myanmar between consecutive regimes and the ethnic rebel groups cause troubles on the lives of civilians as undergoing peace process has been stagnant so far. The national ceasefires agreement between the government and more than a dozen ethnic armed groups has also been at a state of gridlock for several months. However, the popular peace process is not likely to be sustainable unless negotiations begin soon on the topic of the deep-seated political, social and economic causes of conflict.

Part of the crisis is that opposing actors, from the military to the ethnic revolutionary armed-groups to local war-torn communities, have diverse perceptive of meaning of 'peace' and as a result fighting cannot bring to an end. Moreover, the fact is that key stakeholders time and again fail to make agreement on withdrawal of respective troops from the confrontational lines. Especially the government soldiers refuse to draw back from the current dominant positions; however they rather have a tendency to move forward.

Most ethnic stakeholders call for structural changes in favor of genuine autonomy for ethnic population. They usually express their reason for 'constitutional federalism' or true self-determination. On the other hand, Burma Army has opposed such change as threatening national unity by secessionists. The government has tried to beat this challenging matter by highlighting on the uncompleted peace negotiation and the infrastructural developments in ethnic areas.

As a consequence of civil war that has proceeded for more than sixty years has left Burma, one of the most insolvent countries in the region. Although Burma gained its independence in 1948, it cannot address its civil war with its ethnic populaces.

Recently on 8 August, clashes broke out and lasted for more than an hour near, took place at Sabaw Maw, a ruby mine located in territory controlled by KIA battalion 6 in the jade rich Hpakan Township. The fighting began when a column of Burmese troops entered the mine area, quoting to an unidentified KIA officer, the Kachin News Group ( reported.

More fighting happened on August 10 when another group of government troops arrived at the ruby mine. After exchanging heavy fire the government troops finally entered a KIA controlled village located next to the mine and burned a KIA base, according to eyewitnesses.

Government forces targeted to seize control of a KIA mountaintop post located on Loi Ne Bum. But they were unable to capture the post, the KIA officer told KNG during a phone interview conducted on 12 August.

The Government has shut down most of the Hpakant jade mines since May, 2012. The shutdown aims to prevent the KIO from charging miners revolutionary tax, a practice that resumed when the conflict erupted in June 2011.

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Sumlut Gam, the Kachin Independence Organization's (KIO) education minister who also serves as member of the KIO central committee told KNG that the army's latest actions were an attempt to block the KIO from the gem trade.

Members of a joint committee consisting of representatives from the government and the KIO, which is tasked with monitoring the conflict, met on 12 August in Myitkyina the capital of Kachin state to discuss the latest military conflict, Sumlut Gam told the Kachin News Group.

Last year, heavy fighting took place as government armed-forces' extension continues mainly in ethnic areas, especially in Kachin State. Burma Army maintained a brutal warfare on the ethnic Kachin people. The government armed-forces put into practice using landmines, attacking ordinary civilians, taking hostages for forced labor, looting and destructing citizens' properties, sustenance and agricultural farms and burning the ethnic villages and so forth.

Also September to December in 2012, armed conflict between the government and the KIA had been going on mostly in eastern and central Kachin State. The KIO targeted to block supply lines in southern Kachin state. The then clashes took place in the state's western jade rich Hpakant district where the Kachin resistance had claimed major victory during August 2012. The government's control of the Hpakant jade-land has reportedly earned billions in revenue since the early 1990s when the KIO gave up control of most of the rich district.

The government's major offensive in Hpakant seems aimed at removing the KIA from important strategic positions that protect Laiza, the KIO's de facto capital. The government army had been gearing up for a major military offensive against the KIO last year using massive military strength of over 80 battalions.

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Despite President U Thein Sein call for peacemaking, the trust is not within reach. The ethnic armed groups are still undecided to accept the government's peace call. The fact is that while offering peace, the government has been increasing its military deployment to the conflict zones.

According to Kachinland News, Burmese army sent more reinforcement to Kachin region although some armistices are made between the ethnic revolutionary groups and the government. There has been little satisfactory progress. The key question is most ethnic leaders highlight their mistrust of the 2008 constitution. They said it will not create a genuine federal union at all.

Meanwhile, the United States Secretary of State John Kerry called on the country's leaders to get going with reforms during his two-day visit to Burma. In a press conference on 10 August (Sunday) in Naypyidaw, the DVB News said, Kerry raised the question of reform process which was still necessary far off to go. Kerry was in Naypyidaw to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum and meeting of foreign ministers of ASEAN in the capital of Burma.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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