World Bulletin / News Desk
The agreement signed between the former junta and the powerful Kachin Independent Army (KIA) in 1994 was broken and fighting intensified a year after the military transferred power to a quasi-civilian government led by “reformist” President Thein Sein, a retired general.
Ma Nuu, 42, was among tens of thousands of displaced people sheltering in more than 70 temporary camps in Kachin State.
“We put so much hope in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” she told Anadolu Agency by phone, using an honorific for the Nobel Peace laureate who became the de facto leader of the country’s first elected civilian government in almost half a decade that took power last year.
“After the 2015 election, we hoped her government would end the fighting, and we could return home,” Ma Nuu said, referring to the landslide victory of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).
The situation, however, has been worsening over the past year, and Ma Nuu and other people who had been sheltering for years at the Zai Awng internally displaced persons camp in Winemaw Township were re-displaced in December after several mortar shells fell near the site.
“I don’t know why [fighting is still happening]. I think Tatmadaw is not listening to Daw Suu,” she said, referring to the notorious military by its official name.
Since Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948, it has seen over a half-century of armed conflict, with more than a dozen ethnic rebel groups embarking on a longstanding battle for greater autonomy and self-administration in what has been termed “the world's longest-running civil war”.
From 1962 to 2011, Myanmar was ruled by oppressive juntas in which generals suppressed almost all dissent and stood accused of gross human rights abuses, prompting international condemnation and sanctions.
Amid recent fighting in the country’s north, a think tank, widely believed to have been military-backed, has blamed the rebels for ongoing conflicts, accusing some groups of provoking, colonizing, building new bases, recruiting and harming the livelihood of ethnic civilians.
“I believe that the ethnic armed forces should drop their guns and take a brave step toward the table,” said Myo Thant Khaing, an executive director of the Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies.
“Politically differences should be comforted by means of politics itself,” he told Anadolu Agency in an email Friday.
Reform is a process far from complete in once self-isolated Myanmar.
Although the country is now being ruled by an NLD-led civilian government, the junta-drafted constitution allocates the military a quarter of seats in parliament -- and therefore veto power on any important constitutional amendments -- and control of three key cabinet ministries.
The military runs the Home Affairs Ministry -- which oversees not only the entire police and security apparatus, but also the General Administration Department which is charged with implementing policies and directives from the civilian leadership down to the grassroots level -- seriously restricting the NLD’s authority.
Many acknowledge that the Suu Kyi-led government has had little to no authority over the military during its one year in office.
“It’s obvious that the NLD-led government has had more collisions with the military,” said Min Zin, an analyst with the Yangon-based Institute for Strategy and Policy (Myanmar) -- comparing the current administration to the previous military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) government.
He referred to how generals had stated, under the UDSP-led government from 2011-2016, that military involvement in politics would be gradually reduced.
“In some cases, they said it would be in five or ten years,” Min Zin told Anadolu Agency. “Now they are showing no sign of loosening grip.”
He underlined that the military has instead shown a stronger desire to maintain its role by highlighting the “low performance” of the civilian government over the past year.
“They strongly believe that, without them, the situation would be chaotic sooner or later,” he added.
“Tatmadaw is playing pretty cunningly.”
Army chief Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has insisted that the Tatmadaw must maintain a leading role in national politics given its place in the country’s history and during critical situations -- referring to 1949 when around 75 percent of Myanmar was in the hands of several insurgent groups and the government was termed the “Yangon government” to mock its lack of control.
“According to history throughout time, a national political strength is needed to observe the route not to deviate and the prosperity not to get harmed,” he said during a military parade earlier this week.
“It is the Armed Forces,” he highlighted.
According to Myo Than Khaing, the Tatmadaw and the elected government should not be considered separately as they are “a team”.
“The history of Myanmar’s military and political process is different from other countries,” he stressed.
He expressed his belief that the Tatmadaw will step out of politics when all armed conflicts are concluded and political stabilization gains strength.
Referring to present conflicts in western and northern Myanmar, he said, “Tatmadaw will stick with politics as long as the instances of threatening the nation’s sovereignty are occurring.”
Analyst Min Zin described a positive civil-military relationship as critical for Myanmar as the democratic transition process can be impacted by military actions.
“At the moment, trust-building between two leaders is essential for further reforms,” he underlined.