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Arnab Sen asked: What is the status of ceasefire agreement between the Myanmar government and the minority ethnic rebels?

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  • Udai Bhanu Singh replies: Ethnic minorities constitute 30 per cent of Myanmar’s total population, with Bamars being the majority group. In the 1990s, some 25 ceasefire agreements in all were signed. An important role was played by erstwhile Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in negotiating cease-fire with breakaway groups of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), like the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). These agreements often gave the insurgent groups informal sanction to engage in narcotic trade and free trade with the PRC and Thailand, while the government turned a blind eye. The quid pro quo was that the non-state armed groups (NSAGs) permitted a semblance of peace on the border. The military junta was in effect seeking to buy time till it was strong enough to bring the (outlying) areas directly under its control.

    Later, on September 1, 2010, the government asked the NSAGs to surrender their arms and transform themselves into the Border Guard Force (BGF). Now, as Myanmar democratises, the ceasefires have to ensure effective governance and rule of law while utilising this opportunity for capacity building and infrastructure development. The one contrary trend was the break up of the ceasefire with the KIO after 17 years.

    Many NSAGs had signed ceasefire agreements, including, interestingly, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang faction (NSCN-K). Those who have not signed ceasefire agreements, besides KIO, include the Arakan National Council (ANC), Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), Lahu Democratic Front (LDU) and the Wa National Organisation (WNO). When the government sent Aung Min to hold negotiations with representatives of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) in Chiang Mai in November 2012, it continued to maintain that the NSAGs first disarm and then form political parties in order to address political issues.