Is the peace process beginning to collapse?


Kachin people hold placards reading 'For a more peaceful day, war is not the way.' and 'Stop civil war in Kachin State' during a protest held to show opposition to the conflict between the Myanmar Army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State, in Myitkyina, Kachin State, Myanmar, 3 October 2016. Photo: Seng Mai/EPA

Air strikes, artillery offensives, thousands of civilians fleeing their homes. This is what's been happening over the last few weeks in northern Myanmar. And it has been happening as Myanmar's new government under the leadership of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been trying so hard to restart a heavily flawed peace process.

There should be an outcry. And there is on the ground in Kachin and Shan states where bitter military clashes have been continuing. And thousands of people have taken to the streets in Myitkyina over the last week to shout for peace. Yet who is listening?

About 2,000 people fled their homes after the Myanmar Army attacked a Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) relief centre for drug addicts in Mong Kung Township, southern Shan State on 5 October. Consequently, residents fled their homes and sought shelter in the northern and southern monasteries. The RCSS/SSA also claimed that the Myanmar Army targeted four different areas with heavy artillery on 2 October and the fighting continues unabated.

In neighbouring UWSA and Mongla territory, it has been reported, there has also been a minor infraction into Mongla territory by UWSA troops. Media reports say 600 UWSA troops seized two strategic mountain outposts.

In Karen State, tensions continued to simmer between the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army – Kyaw Htet (DKBA-KH) and the Myanmar military’s Border Guard Force forcing over 4,000 villagers to flee. In response, the NCA-signatory Karen National Union has suggested that the DKBA-KH reintegrate into the Karen National Liberation Army an attempt to prevent further civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, in Kachin State, the KIO claims that they were attacked by four fighter jets in what it believes was an attempt to pressure them to sign the NCA before the second round of the peace conference.

Someone, possibly the Myanmar military, may be playing a dangerous game. Consequently, a much more measured response needs to be considered by all sides to ensure that the peace process while far from perfect must not be allowed to collapse. The future of the country and the people depends on it.

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