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Can Clinton manage to end civil war in Burma?

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Bangkok - Hillary Clinton will arrive in Burma today, becoming the first US Secretary of State to pay an official visit to the isolated Asian state in 50 years.

She will be in the governmental capital Naypyitaw in the afternoon where she will meet President Thein Sein and his cabinet ministers on Thursday. The US Secretary of State is likely to push for essential changes in the secluded nation as well as seeking to weaken China's diplomatic influence there.

Afterwards, she will fly to Rangoon, former capital and economic hub, to meet with democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ahead of Clinton's visit most commentators have been focusing on the release of political prisoners and ending the war against the Kachin Independence Army in Northern Burma.

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On Tuesday, representatives of the Thein Sein government met with delegates of Kachin Independence Organization for peace talks in Ruili in China's southwest Yunnan province. This comes after peace talks meeting in Thailand on November 19.

The government broke a 17-year ceasefire by starting a fresh war against the KIO on June 9 this year. An attempt to negotiate for peace failed in August since the government proposed peace negotiations with the KIO on the basis of the 2008 Constitution, which suggests the KIO to disarm its military wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

However the KIO has been demanding peace talks on the basis of the 1947 Panglong Agreement, which guarantees rights of all minorities' in the multi-ethnic nation. The Panglong Agreement has been ignored by consecutive Burmese regimes so far.

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The Panglong Agreement was signed between General Aung San and leaders of the Chin, Kachin and Shan ethnic groups guaranteeing to establish a genuine federal union of Burma.

The agreement essentially guaranteed self-determination for ethnic minorities and offered a large measure of autonomy, including independent legislature, judiciary and administrative powers.

However, the dream of equality and a federal union is far from being realized some six decades later. On the contrary, many ethnic groups are still engaged in armed conflicts with the Burmese Army, since Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948, one of the longest civil wars in the world.

The KIO's James Lum Dau made the current situation thoroughly clear by saying that, "Now, we will not go for a new peace agreement with the Burmese government unless government troops withdraw from the KIO areas in Kachin State and Northern Shan State."

Kachin people abroad and inside the country are concerned over the fresh initiative for peace talks because the five-decade imbroglio between Kachin people and military-controlled Burmese government will not be solved through dialogue alone.

Various ethnic leaders underlined that they don't have confidence in the new 2008 constitution, which will not generate a genuine democratic federal union by any means.

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Most Burmese people oppose the inhumane war against the KIA/KIO by the government soldiers. People see the activities of government troops as fresh war crimes and they show their disagreement in various ways publicly.

In addition, the momentum of civil war in Kachin State has been increasing. People throughout the country are against this war since numerous casualties on both sides were citizens of Burma. Accordingly, many people do not have trust in Thein Sein government as a sincere administration that is committed to democratic change.

During Clinton's two-day visit, she may push Thein Sein's government to unlock political procedures further and to resolve the conflicts in ethnic areas. Especially, she has to urge the government to end ethic war on Sino-Burma border since the country is promising a shift to democracy.

In the midst of growing concerns about the rise of China, Clinton's tour is also designed to reinforce US muscle in a country where China exploits the situation not only economically but also politically.


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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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