Who hasn’t heard the term ‘insurgency’? The word which draws out our attention and creates an aroma of fear in mind. It has been rightly said that insurgencies are easy to make but difficult to stop. The recipe is simple, a legitimate grievance against a state, a state that refuses to compromise, a quorum of angry people and access to weapons. In the nations of the contemporary world, formed out of the union of different and diverse group of people, dissatisfaction among masses is not a big deal, until it picks up weapon. How can Myanmar: the highly diversified nation, with a miserable history of autocratic, military regime be left behind?
Ethnic minorities make up almost a third of Burma’s population of roughly 51 million. They live throughout Myanmar, but are concentrated mainly in the seven states and divisions named after the Shan, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Chin, Kachin, and Rakhine ethnic groups. It is these minorities who are devoid of many rights which the mainstream Burmese enjoy. National identity cards, which all Burmese must carry and the passports generally indicate the ethnicity of non-Burmans, either explicitly or through the use of personal titles in ethnic minority languages rather than in Burmese. This is truly a load and clear expression of inequality among the Burmese nationals and a deliberate exclusion of non-Burmese from the main stream.
The government has been able to achieve little in its endeavour to curb the insurgency. The bitter relations have their roots in the history. The government has always had a contentious relationship, marked by frequent arguments, with Burma’s ethnic groups. Many of these groups have fought for greater autonomy for their regions after the country’s independence in 1948. At the time of independence, only Rangoon was under the control of national government authorities. Subsequent military campaigns forcefully brought more and more of the nation under central government control.
In February 1947, came the ‘Panglong Agreement’. Signed by General Aung San and representatives from the Shan, Kachin and Chin communities, it promised to these groups a fair amount of autonomy over their own affairs in exchange for their support for Burma’s independence. This agreement allowed for a large degree of self-governance and the option to withdraw from the federation after a decade. That agreement forms the legal basis for demands for self-governance today. Aung San’s death just months later brought an end to the dream of Panglong, as his successor U Nu never fully implemented the agreement, in particular the promise of ‘local autonomy’. Anti-Muslim activities have resulted in riots in central Myanmar.
The prosecution of Burmese Indians and other ethnic groups after the military coup headed by General Ne Win in 1962 led to the expulsion of 3 lakh people. They migrated to escape racial discrimination and the wholesale nationalisation of private enterprise that took place in 1964. The Anglo-Burmese at that time either fled the nation or changed names and blended in with the broader Burmese society.
Shattered hopes, broken promises, persecutions and lack of autonomy seem to be reasons valid enough for the birth of these parallel armies. Just few months after independence, the communists were in an armed rebellion to overthrow the Central government. Subsequently Karen minority then others discontented groups uprose independently against the Central government. Currently, the insurgencies continue to be a constant threat to the sovereignty of Union government’s machinery. In August 2011, President U Thein Sein’s extended peace offer.
By early 2012 a total of 12 armed groups had respectively signed preliminary peace agreements with the government at state or central levels. Under the president’s peace offer, peace making is being carried out in three phases: the first phase is to ceasefire, set up liaison offices and travel without holding arms to each other’s territory; the second phase is confidence building, holding political dialogue, implement regional development tasks in terms of education, health and communication; and the third phase is to sign agreement for eternal peace in the presence of the parliament represented by nationalities, political parties and different walks of life.
In spite of all these peace talks and agreements, the insurgencies are not taking any pause. It hardly takes time for insurgents to violate the ceasefire and common people have become the victims of these events. Recently the altercations have driven out around 3000 villagers from their homes. Getting trapped between the army and the closed Chinese border, they face a hell lot of atrocities amplified by the shortage of food, drinking water and medical care.
Hence it is a great need of time for either sides to compromise. Though the autocratic regime had been significantly tough at several stages, but insurgency is not a way out. The nation is now changing, the spread of democracy raises up more hopes for re-considerations. The government must blend its policies to promote the welfare of the non-Burmese and ethnic minorities. They must be given a special status to accelerate their development, so that they catch up with the mainstream population. The bloodshed taking place in Myanmar has its cause. Hence until this cause gets uprooted by the hands of friendship and mutual trust, peace can’t be established.