BGF and resumption of conflict

2008 – Referendum and new constitution

– In April 2009, the government announced all ceasefire groups to transform into “Border Guard Forces” (BGFs) as stipulated in the 2008 constitution. These required all militia groups to come under the partial command of the Myanmar military.
According to the government’s plan, each unit would be made up of 326 personnel. Of these, 30 would be from the Myanmar army, including one of the three majors in charge of the unit. It was indicated that all members of the force would draw regular army salaries from the date they commenced training. Those who were over the statutory retirement age of 50 would have to retire.

2009 – BGF Announcement

– None of the major ceasefire groups – with the exception of the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army (DKBA) – agreed. The deadline to complete the transformation of ceasefire groups was repeatedly postponed until 1 September 2010, after which the government declared the post-1990 ceasefire agreements “null and void”. The state media then began referring to these groups as “insurgents”. It took particularly hostile measures against the KIO by ordering the closure of KIO liaison offices and refusing to register Kachin political parties.

2010 – Kokang Incident

The ceasefire groups that were holding out came under increasing government pressure.
– Economic pressure was stepped up as the military government blocked Chinese border trade through the KIO’s Laiza headquarters, a crucial source of income for the group. The authorities also ordered the closure of all but two of the KIO liaison offices in government controlled areas. Pressure was put on the Wa, with the Myanmar aviation authority refusing to renew the operating licence of Yangon Airways, a domestic carrier owned by a relative of the UWSA chairman.

BGF Final Deadline

– The government also began to step up its military pressure on militia groups. The attack on the small Kokang militia group, MNDAA and successful capture of their base in Laogai, Shan State on August 2009 was the first military strategy to enforce the BGF plan. Although the government officially claimed the attack was part of a drug-busting operation, many saw it as a test and warning to other militia groups. The event marked the first ceasefire breakdown after the 2008 referendum and the resumption of civil war in Kachin and Shan state.

2011 – KIO Ceasefire Breakdown

– The buildup of military pressure on the KIO came to a head on 9 June 2011, with clashes between government troops and the strategic KIO outpost of Bumsen in Kachin State – close to the site of two Chinese-operated hydroelectric dams at Tarpein. The Myanmar army overran the outpost on 12 June, and when it ignored a KIO deadline to withdraw, the KIO responded by destroying a number of bridges in the area to hamper the resupply of government forces. Since then, there have been regular clashes in several parts of the Kachin and northern Shan states.

2012 – Attacks on other ethnic militias

– Despite the government’s significant achievements with the new three phase peace plan and temporary shelving of the BGF issue, militia groups have claimed the military has continued to attack or position their troops close to their bases. Such contradictions in the government’s peace strategy continues to fuel ethnic skepticism and doubt over the government’s true motives in the peace talks.

2013 – The ongoing conflict in Kachin and northern Shan states

– The ongoing conflict in Kachin and northern Shan states threatens the ceasefires signed with other armed ethnic groups. It also reduces confidence in the government’s sincerity in solving the nationalities problem. The DKBA-5 has threatened to nullify its ceasefire if the government does not stop its offensive against the KIA (Jan 4, 2013). The UNFC members (including KNU, KNPP, SSA-N, CNF, NMSP and PNLO) issued a statement blaming the government for causing the conflict in Kachin state and called for an immediate stop of government offensives (Jan 1, 2013). SSPP/ SSA released a statement along with the UWSA and NDAA saying that they would revise their ceasefire agreements if the conflict continues (Jan 10, 2013).

2014 – The draft Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement drawn up

– There have been constructive developments at the beginning of 2014. The ethnic armed organizations held the Law Khee Ler Ethnic Conference from 20-25 January, and the Laiza Ethnic Conference from 25-29 July, 2014. They discussed matters specific to the NCA, displayed a sense of unity, and showed a willingness to move the peace process forward. The “final draft” of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement drawn up conjointly by the Government and Ethnic Armed Organizations drafting teams has yet to be ratified by the assent of the policy-makers of the organizations concerned.

2015 – The signing of the NCA

– The NCCT and UPWC agreed a seven-step road-map to achieve peace in the country at talks on 22-27 and 30-31 March 2015. Five representatives each from the NCCT and UPWC signed the NCA final draft on 31 March. This was the culminating achievement of nearly one and half years of negotiation. Nai Hongsa, Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, Maj. Gen. Gun Maw, Col. Khun Okker, and Dr. Lian H Sakhong represented the NCCT and U Aung Min, U Thein Zaw, Lt. Gen. Myint Soe, Lt. Gen. Thet Naing Win and U Khet Htein Nan represented the UPWC in approving the final draft of the NCA. This is a draft agreement which requires ratification by the highest authorities from both ethnic armed organizations and the Union Peace Central Committee (UPCC). It is a step forward in the negotiation process which advances the prospect of peace in the country. The signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire in October 2015 officially marks the beginning of the end of nearly seventy years of Myanmar’s civil war. The NCA framework contains potential conflict control mechanisms, but a solution to the key topics of demilitarization, territorial demarcation and power sharing remains elusive.

2016 – The NLD Administration and emergence of the Northern Alliance

– The NLD government came to power in March 2016, with one hand tied behind its back as the Tatmadaw (military) still holds considerable power in government. Tatmadaw holds full control of security-related ministries and 25 percent of legislative body. At the end of 2016, a major counter offensive on the Chinese border by the Northern Alliance made up of four combatant groups, three of which are denied participation in the NCA process, is one example of growing frustrations and grievances. Moreover attacks by alleged Bengali or Rohingya militants in October 2016 have prompted a new large-scale security crackdown by the Myanmar Army in northern Rakhine in October 2016, sending tens of thousands of new refugees into Bangladesh.

2017 – Issues of federal army and secession

– The second session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference started on May 24 and ended on May 29. The conference brought together some 1,400 representatives from the government, the parliament, the military, invited political parties, ethnic armed organizations, and civil society groups. The 37 principles, proposed by the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), were the results of state and regional level political dialogues, which include 12 with the political sector, 11 with the economic sector, four with the social sector, and 10 with the land and environment sector. However, there were two critical issues — a federal army and secession — which seemed to be the fiasco of the 21st century Panglong Peace Conference. The haunting misfortune to the NLD government in 2017 is the northern Rakhine State conflict which will continue as a major question in 2018.

2018 – The NLD changes its target

– The NCA becomes weaker to be an all-inclusive agreement in 2018. The NLD looks like to target 2020 election with peace as its theme. The NLD government is half-way through its five-year term and there are serious questions on whether the party and its leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi are on the right track amidst a humanitarian crisis in northern Rakhine, the weakening peace process, the depressed economy and some perceive as failure to uphold freedom of expression and the rule of law. The 21st century Panglong Peace Conference cannot start as two key stakeholders – KNU and RCSS/SSA – have stayed away from official political dialogues or the NCA agenda.