Regional civil society organizations said on Wednesday that ongoing conflicts between the government military and armed ethnic groups in two northern states have hurt Myanmar’s fragile peace process and imposed hardship on residents there.
The CSOs held a news conference in the commercial capital Yangon to explain what they discussed about the fighting in Shan and Kachin states and the status of the peace talks at a forum they attended on Monday.
At Monday’s event, representatives from 90 CSOs also discussed the situation of people displaced by ongoing hostilities.
They demanded that military and armed ethnic group leaders sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the government that a handful of other such groups have already signed, and issue an announcement about it, said Htet Oo Wai from the CSO peace forum committee.
The groups also urged the military to repair its relationship with civil society organizations.
“We urged the military to take the lead in regaining the good relationship between itself and civil society organizations that was destroyed many years ago,” she said, but did not elaborate.
Fighting in Kachin state and Shan state to its immediate south has displaced thousands of local villagers and prompted street protests by civil society groups, residents, and representatives of state political parties.
“We also urged military and ethnic armed groups to meet and stop the ongoing fighting, and also to resolve problems in Rakhine state as soon as possible,” she said.
Hostilities between Myanmar security forces and armed men flared in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state this month following a raid on three border guard posts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships which nine officers and eight assailants died.
Other attackers, soldiers, and policemen were killed in subsequent clashes between insurgents supported by an Islamist group. The clashes have forced hundreds of schools to close and 3,000 residents to flee their homes.
The CSOs also demanded the suspension of large investments in the states and of all business involved in natural resources, which are abundant in northern Myanmar, until there is peace throughout the country.
Control of natural resources
Several rights groups believe that armed ethnic armies in Kachin and Shan states continue to engage in fighting to get control of natural resources, especially land, and hydroelectric power along the Salween River.
Shan and Kachin soldiers have also engaged in clashes with each other in northern Myanmar.
“The fighting between different ethnic groups is very dangerous,” Ashin Wimala, a Buddhist monk who lives in Waingmaw township in Myitkyina district in Kachin state, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“Everyone’s hatred has spiked,” he said. This fighting must stop.”
The monk also emphasized the effects the conflicts have had on displaced residents and their children.
“For IDPs [internally displaced persons], the mental suffering is greater than the physical suffering because they have stayed away from their homes for six years on account of the fighting,” he said.
“People’s and children’s attitudes can be destroyed because they have to depend too much on others,” he said.
The ongoing hostilities in the two states threaten to undermine the peace process that Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has made a cornerstone of the six-month-old government.
She organized the 21st-Century Panglong Conference, held at the end of August, in an effort to end decades of civil war pitting armed ethnic groups against the national military in many regions of the country.
The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and hindered economic development in the resource-rich country.
Reported by Thiha Tun and Aung Theinkha for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.