China should play a more active role in promoting a truce in Myanmar


A picture made available on 20 November 2016 shows female soldiers of Kachin Independence Army (KIA) during a training session at a military camp near Laiza, Kachin State, northern Myanmar, 19 November 2016. Photo: Seng Mai/EPA

In recent days, there has been a resumption of fighting in northern Myanmar. Fierce clashes between government forces and ethnic armed groups have forced thousands of Myanmar residents to cross the border into Chinese territory, seriously affecting the daily lives of Chinese people in the area.

The armed conflict between Myanmar government forces and ethnic armed groups is one of the longest lasting civil wars in the world. The conflict has severely affected the security and development of China's border areas, hindering especially the development of the China-initiated China-India-Myanmar-Bangladesh economic corridor, as well as the "One Belt and One Road" Initiative. It’s high time that China gave serious thought to the matter, and find ways to get the parties involved to lay down their arms and return to the negotiating table.

The only way to achieve peace in northern Myanmar is for the parties concerned to agree to an unconditional truce as soon as possible, and then return to the rightful path of peaceful negotiation; seek consensus through a process of peaceful talks; and ensure that a framework for building and maintaining long-term peace is established. All parties involved should bear the responsibility for the deadlock in the peace process in northern Myanmar.

Since the government of the National League for Democracy (NLD) took office, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, it has been taking an inclusive approach to foster peace, which is in line with the spirit of the times. Myanmar's military forces should actively cooperate with the NLD government and participate in the peace process. It should adopt a more inclusive attitude and refrain from the oppression of ethnic armed groups, in order to win their trust and further facilitate a solution to the conflict.

As for the ethnic armed groups themselves, they should abandon their unyielding stance of turning their back on the peace process. They should realize that they have more to gain through peaceful negotiations, and can secure their legitimate interests and rights by integrating themselves into mainstream society. The ethnic armed groups should also give up unrealistic pursuits such as demanding military or diplomatic power.

Some ethnic minority militants in northern Myanmar, harbor unrealistic and impractical hopes of drawing China into the conflict, forcing and taking advantage of China to deal with Myanmar government forces. Such hopes are dangerous and will only harm China’s interests. The ethnic minority militants in northern Myanmar should be under no illusions that such hopes will only lead to a dead end. China will never be taken in or turn a blind eye to their trouble-making acts.

Some of the ethnic armed groups in northern Myanmar have already gone too far. The armed conflicts involving the Kokang in 2015 forced many people into a life of vagrancy, plunging them into an abyss of misery. History has shown us such behavior benefits no one. During the current conflict in northern Myanmar, it seems these ethnic militants are up to their old tricks with even more unrestrained actions. They have blatantly attacked major economic and trade channels which are vital to the interconnectivity and intercommunication between China and Myanmar, including the Musa and 105-Mile trade zones, against the will of the people. Some militants have also hindered the construction of the Myitsone Hydropower Dam, being built with the help of Chinese firms. Others openly incite Chinese residents living among the ethnic groups to join in their cause, and illegally recruit personnel inside Chinese territory. China cannot tolerate such actions which cause widespread indignation and discontent.

The chaos in northern Myanmar not only harms China's national interests but also damages regional peaceful development and negatively affects China's image abroad. To break the deadlock, the difficult task of reaching a compromise between relevant parties inside Myanmar, must be achieved. Experience of similar peace negotiations around the world, has shown that coordination by a third party can sometimes be effective in solving a country's domestic conflicts. The Myanmar government, military, as well as the ethnic minority armed groups, all look to China to play a bigger role.

As a neighboring country with enormous potential, China has close contact with the parties involved in Myanmar's conflicts and is capable of influencing their decision-making. China should seize the opportunity and be brave enough to bear the responsibility. In recent years, China has made it clear to Myanmar, in a number of ways, that it will take a neutral stance and actively foster peace negotiations. China has even provided venues for peace negotiations between the Myanmar government and ethnic minority militants in the town of Ruili in Yunnan Province. Such coordination from China could be acceptable to all parties and accord with everyone's wishes. Only China can effectively give full play to enhance peace.

China should take the initiative to solve the chaos in northern Myanmar, move from a position of passive defense to active coordination, and promotion of the peace process, so as to help end the conflict which has lasted for decades. This is an important opportunity for China to actively shape peace and development along its borders and conscientiously play its role as a major power.

Courtesy Global Times

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