Peace in Kachin

The Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar government have agreed a new truce, bringing a tentative halt to the war that re-ignited on 9 June 2011. That war ran for far too long, with too many killed and too much damage done. Regular New Mandala readers will be aware of my deep interest in this topic, and the many words I have spilled on it over the years.

For now, it’s too early to guess whether this truce will hold but the signals from the negotiations in Myitkyina are overwhelmingly positive. We can all appreciate that the challenges ahead are immense, and that building the foundations for a new political arrangement in northern Myanmar will not be easy. But the effort by all sides to find common ground and bring a halt to hostilities is exactly what’s needed to create momentum for lasting peace. It won’t happen by accident.

On the eve of next week’s World Economic Forum in Naypyidaw this deal clearly works for the Myanmar government: the timing is impeccable.

By my reckoning today is perhaps the first day in Myanmar’s post-independence history when a nation-wide end to the era of civil war could be in prospect. As I have said before, resolving these issues is Nobel Peace Prize worthy work.

However I don’t think that’s what we should focus on. This should be a story about the Myanmar people and their opportunities to seize a better future. The Myanmar people deserve to live in a country where the haunting presence of ethnic and religious violence can be consigned to history. With such important progress towards peace with the Kachin, the government must thus get to grips with the new waves of intolerance, fear and hate straining relations between Buddhists and Muslims.

The specter of nationwide anti-Muslim purges is grim. Only creative and inclusive leadership would seem to be an antidote to the hateful rhetoric and violence.