Myanmar peace process ‘collapsing’ warns Karen State

The Karen people spent decades at war with the Burmese military, but the last few years have been in relative peace.


Although fighting with another ethnic group, the Kachin, continues in the country’s north, a draft ceasefire agreement was signed by 16 armed ethnic groups with the government about three months ago.

But Karen military leaders said they were increasingly concerned that the Myanmar government and military was not genuine about peace.

They said plain-clothed Myanmar soldiers were travelling more frequently through their region and the military had built ten new bases in recent times.

“So we see that the cease fire talks or the peace process right now is being manipulated by the governments for their own benefits so they can get more control of our resources and get more control of our territories,” said Major General Nerdah Bo Mya from the Karen National Defence Organisation.

The major general said the Myanmar government was operating by stealth placing Burmese teachers, police and bureaucrats in Karen state institutions.

He said it was an attempt to undermine the autonomy of the ethnic groups, which they had fought fiercely to protect.

“All they need is that signature (on the formal agreement),” he said.

“Once they have the signature everything will be finished because they’ll control everything and tell the world that there is peace. 

“They want us to sign and after that they don’t want to talk about political issue and then they will say there’s peace already in Burma so they will invite all the foreign investment to come in and then they will get all the money and take our resources.”

Perth-based Karen refugee Htoo Hsar Wah said he was also not optimistic about the country’s election in November being fair.

“If we look at their activity, it looks like they are ready for the war. I think they might break (off talks) soon.”

Research fellow Dr Ashley South from the Chiang Mai University said the political talks had stalled after three years.

He said the Myanmar military was not necessarily on the same page as the government, which is led by President Thein Sein who has claimed to be a reformer.

“I think the concerns that the peace process could break down and we could see a resumption of conflict in the south east are very real,” Dr South said.

“Particularly because the political discussions over the past three years to achieve a nation-wide cease fire agreement seem to be running out of steam as we approach the elections.

“I think the chances of a comprehensive settlement there are pretty limited at present and we could see a resumption of armed conflict. I think that’s a very real concern.”

The Myanmar Embassy refused to comment on the allegations by the Karen.