War, politics, religion fuel Myanmar conflicts


The arrests of three Myanmar journalists in recent days has focused attention on the squeeze of media freedoms and the residual repressive laws still used by the military and government to target any perceived critics, writes David Scott Mathieson:

Lawi Weng of The Irrawaddy magazine, one of Myanmar’s most celebrated conflict reporters, and Aye Nai and Pyae Phone Naing from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), along with four companions and drivers, were taken into the custody by the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, following their attendance at a drug burning ceremony held by the rebel Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Namhsan township in the mountains of Northern Shan State.

“Reporters covering Myanmar’s many ethnic armed conflicts face grave risks, some of which could be lifted with a few simple legal reforms,” said Shawn Crispin, the Southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “The military continues to threaten journalists who report from areas controlled by rebel groups with charges of unlawful association, an outdated colonial era law that should be immediately purged from the penal code,” Crispin told VOA.

Myanmar in its transitional period stands out as an important case reflecting the long-standing civil wars that often co-exist with peace-making activities, notes Dulyapak Preecharush, an Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at Thammasat University.

Since the country’s political reform of 2011, Myanmar has demonstrated some impressive progress in conflict management within an ethnically and culturally fragmented environment, he writes for Irrawaddy, in a review of Conflict in Myanmar:

For conflict in political dynamics, Myanmar is a hybrid transitioning state that metamorphosed from an old authoritarian regime to a new democratizing polity. In the chapter about democracy and communal violence, Tamas Wells discovers the different interpretations of democracy between international aid workers and Burmese activists/democratic leaders (pp.245-260). The first group believes that universal human rights is the main component for democracy, whereas the latter assumes that the necessary foundations for Myanmar’s democracy are the unity and the protection of the majority (p.247).RTWT

But Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s signature peace initiative is not bringing peace to Myanmar, notes , the executive director of Institute for Strategy and Policy – Myanmar, a Yangon-based think tank. After two major meetings in less than a year, she has made no more headway than the previous government toward finding a solution to the country’s decades-long ethnic conflict, he writes for The New York Times:

After the disastrous loss at the polls of the military-backed ruling party in 2015, the Tatmadaw apparently has come to believe that it, too, must learn to play the game of electoral politics. The Tatmadaw can still bank on the support of the former ruling party and Buddhist nationalists for the 2020 election. But these groups’ votes were insufficient in 2015, so it will also have to court ethnic political parties in hopes of putting together something like a grand coalition.

“Given this politicking and the spotty record of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government so far, especially on economic matters, she may be playing with fire with all her talk of ‘Panglong,’ greater federalism and constitutional reform,” Zin adds. “How long before the false hopes she has created in ethnic leaders are dashed and disappointment turns into distrust?”

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