The second major political dialogue of Burma’s peace process was supposed to begin on February 28.  But reports this week indicate that the meeting will be delayed until March. As Burma’s leaders scramble to bring all the relevant parties to the table, China also is playing a role in getting the process back on track.

ban ki moon
Photo Courtesy of U.N. Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The meeting was delayed because Burma’s government is still trying to persuade ethnic armed organizations who have yet to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement to participate fully in the process. At the moment, any group that wants to take part must first lay down its arms and sign that agreement. That’s a tall order for some of the groups who are in active conflict with Burma’s military.

State Counsellor Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi has made this peace process a priority for the nearly one-year-old government led by her National League for Democracy party.  The effort doesn’t directly address the religious tensions related to the more globally familiar Rohingya issue, but it is intended to end decades of violent conflict between the military and the country’s array of armed organizations seeking recognition for their ethnic groups.

To help bring the parties back to the table, the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, which is made up of representatives from government, the armed groups and the political parties, is holding a series of smaller dialogues. These are being conducted in different regions of the country to address a range of long-standing grievances.   

While the joint committee tries to bring coherence to the process from inside Burma, China has tried to help from the outside.  China and Burma recently held meetings of senior defense and foreign ministry officials to discuss the peace process and the ongoing fighting between the Burma military and ethnic armed groups along the Chinese border. China’s ambassador to Burma encouraged these groups to agree to a ceasefire, and officials in Beijing have urged all parties to commit to a political solution. 

Voices on both sides of the border have called on Beijing to play a larger role in Burma’s peace process, and China’s foreign ministry offered to host talks in Yunnan aimed at mediating a ceasefire agreement. But the effort fell apart in December when the parties could not agree on the structure of the talks.

Meanwhile, the fighting in Burma’s north has continued.  In January, China’s Special Envoy of Asian Affairs met with the Burma Army chief as well as leaders from the armed groups involved and called for a pause in fighting during the Lunar New Year. 

Despite these efforts, China’s ability to influence the dynamics inside Burma is limited. For the March conference to succeed, the military and the groups that haven’t signed the nationwide agreement need to find creative solutions that will help bring all of the key parties to the table.

That means the fighting in the north must stop, so that those involved can begin to build trust with one another. Leadership is critical, and Suu Kyi and her party need to find a balance with the military so they can lead on this issue more effectively.

Related Publications

Myanmar Regional Crime Webs Enjoy Post-Coup Resurgence: The Kokang Story

Myanmar Regional Crime Webs Enjoy Post-Coup Resurgence: The Kokang Story

Friday, August 27, 2021

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

Following the coup by the Myanmar army on February 1, 2021, fighting exploded immediately in the China-Myanmar border area along a strategic trade route between the two countries. But the outbreak wasn’t about the coup — instead it was a battle between two Chinese-speaking militias over control of the Kokang Special Administrative Zone, a lucrative center for illegal business. The story behind this episode provides a small window on the rise of regional criminal networks under the army’s patronage and how they are enjoying a new lease on life under the junta.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Economics & Environment

How Myanmar’s Coup Opens Opportunity for National Reconciliation

How Myanmar’s Coup Opens Opportunity for National Reconciliation

Friday, August 20, 2021

By: Zarchi Oo; Hkawn Htoi; Carl Stauffer

Since Myanmar’s military illegally deposed the country’s elected government on February 1, it has killed more than 1,000 people and is actively undermining efforts to manage the COVID pandemic by arresting volunteer doctors, blocking imports of medical supplies and hoarding and stealing oxygen. The military’s inhumanity and daily atrocities have created a common enemy for a divided society and a rare opportunity for the Myanmar people to initiate a much-needed nation-building process. The opposition is a loose group of organizations largely held together by a shared hatred for the military. If it is to decisively shift the trajectory of this conflict and end the military’s 70-year stranglehold on power, it will need to unify through a transformative reconciliation process.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Reconciliation

In Myanmar, the State the Generals Seized Is Coming Apart

In Myanmar, the State the Generals Seized Is Coming Apart

Thursday, August 19, 2021

By: Jason Tower

Over the past six months under the junta’s “care,” the chaos and turmoil sparked by the coup has moved the country past the brink of failed state status. Growing armed resistance is emerging in the shrinking area where the military’s unbridled brutality has preserved its veneer of control. In liberated zones and particularly in regions controlled by ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), new forms of governance and even sovereignty are taking shape in the vacuum left by Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing’s war on political reform. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications