Poltical dialogue - essential to peace process
As Myanmar’s government hosts the ASEAN Summit this week, conflict-affected communities are wondering if and how the peace process can get back on track. Negotiations for a nationwide ceasefire agreement are stumbling and national elections are due at the end of 2015. However, political dialogue to address ethnic conflict is essential to promote national reconciliation according to a new report from a consortium of relief and development agencies.
Changes in patterns of abuse
Eleven civil society organisations surveyed the perceptions of community leaders in 222 village tracts across South East Myanmar about protection and security concerns. The findings were released this week as part of The Border Consortium’s (TBC’s) Annual General Meeting and Donors Forum. TBC has been providing food, shelter and camp management support for refugees who have fled from armed conflict into Thailand for the past 30 years.
The report documents changes in the patterns of abuse since the latest round of ceasefire negotiations began in late 2011. While there has been a reduction in fighting, there has been no respite from militarisation which is increasingly related to resource extraction and commercial development.
“We have only seen small scale and tentative return of refugees from Thailand, and this survey suggests that the overall number of internally displaced persons has not reduced significantly either. Efforts to prepare for the return and resettlement of displaced persons have been thwarted by ongoing militarisation and insecurity”, commented Sally Thompson, TBC’s Executive Director.
Legal education is an important tool
Village leaders are recognised as the primary mechanism for dealing with serious disputes and violent crimes. Confidence in Myanmar’s formal judiciary is undermined by corruption, lack of awareness about legal processes and the inconsistent application of law.
The withdrawal of Myanmar Army troops and establishment of ceasefire monitoring mechanisms are identified as local priorities for stopping violence and abuse. Community leaders also emphasised the importance of human rights and legal education for empowering villagers to claim their rights and strengthen access to justice.
“Structural issues like security sector reform and land rights need to be addressed in an inclusive national dialogue. In addition, strengthening ethnic policing and judicial capacities could reinforce community protection strategies and help prevent the reoccurrence of crimes and abuse”, said Ms Thompson.