By John Zaw
Christian politicians in ethnic areas of Myanmar are concerned that sporadic fighting there will undermine the peace process in the country where insurgents have waged war for decades.
Fresh fighting between the military and ethnic armies in Rakhine and Shan states has displaced hundreds of people who fled their homes and took shelter in monasteries, according to local media reports.
Tu Ja, a Catholic politician from Kachin State Democracy Party, said it’s difficult to know why the fighting is still ongoing even as the country is in a transition from a military-backed government to a new civilian one.
“Fighting must end or it will not bring good results for the peace process. All stakeholders need to implement the national cease-fire agreement,” Tu Ja told ucanews.com Jan. 6.
His party won a seat in the national parliament and three in the state legislative assembly during the Nov. 8 elections that was seen as the country’s freest and fairest in a quarter-century.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept the polls against the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party that took power in 2010 following five decades of military rule.
“The first priority of the new government will be building the peace process,” Suu Kyi said in a speech during the 68th Independence Day anniversary celebrations held at National League for Democracy headquarters in Yangon Jan. 4.
Myanmar has grappled with wars between the military and ethnic armies fighting for greater autonomy since its independence from British colonial rule in 1948. Christians heavily populate many of Myanmar’s ethnic-based states.
The outgoing government had inked a peace deal with eight ethnic armed groups past October but seven groups such as the Kachin Independence Army and the Wa State Army boycotted it.
A peace conference is scheduled for Jan. 12, led by the current government with participation from about 700 representatives from the military, government, political parties and armed groups expected to join.
Pe Than, a member of parliament from Myaebon constituency in Rakhine State told ucanews.com on Jan 6 that it is a positive sign that the new government wishes to prioritize peace building.
However, he remains skeptical on whether the government can influence the military to end fighting and bringing peace. “I think it is a tough battle for the new government to negotiate with the powerful military,” said Pe Than a member of the Arakan National Party.