By Khuaning Letaung (Feature) – A welcome peace process in Myanmar has already taken enough time, almost a year, but the fruit still tastes bitter in many ethnic areas. There is good reason to ask “Is a peace process another kind of operation to conquer ethnic nationalities?” Fighting is on, not only in Kachin state but has spread to Shan state despite a peace agreement having been signed. Again in Chin state’s southern part, the government has increased two battalions, which is eight fold and can be compared to the situation before 1988.
Militarization always comes first
Chin state was peaceful, given the standard set in the Myanmar military regime, over the past 40 years – from 1948 to 1988 – only to become the poorest state of the country. The Myanmar governments’ manner of constructing roads and communication system was only to strategize military operations against the ethnic armed groups. So, Chin was ignored for long. At the same time the government of Myanmar deployed only two battalions to control the state. After the Chin National Front’s struggle since 1989, the military deployment increased dramatically up to 14 battalions and now is increased to 16 although a peace agreement was signed between the two sides early this year. What could be Nay Pyi Daw’s planning?
Nay Pyi Daw’s peace process package with the contents of cease-fire, development and then political dialogue was offered early in this quasi civilian government’s tenure. International circumstances forced ethnic armed groups to acquiesce, being almost the only option for them. Conflict affected civilians of long also supported the peace process without any knowledge of the plan behind it. Some international community’s had high expectations from President Thein Sein. The majority of the population’s voices have become faint. The worst thing is to be seen as a pessimist. Before satisfactory action in accordance with peace agreements, militarization always comes first as earlier.
Impact of conflict
With the CNF struggle, the increase in military forces made Chin people suffer. According to a Physicians without Borders report 98% of Chin state people were abused and violated. Again according to religious sources, 2/3 of the population of Chin state migrated outside the state for better or for worse, they estimated. Only the elderly, disabled, women and children remain in the state now. The UNDP reported that the state has over 73% of the population below the poverty line, the highest in the country. Chin religious leaders, are the first ones to be targeted, because they are always on the frontline, defending the Chin people, while dealing with problems. And religious persecution is the highest in the country in Chin state. From this religious line, they can control 90% of the population of Chin state, because most are Christians.
Under this very popular peace process and quasi civilian government, religious persecution increased, extortion went up and other Human Rights violations remained the same, the Chin Human Rights Organization has documented.
Impact of development projects
Under the various development schemes, the rivers in the state are dammed, the mineral resources are exploited, and beautiful places are to be set as tourism projects. There are many more ways to harm the Chin community across the state. Thousands of Chin families have to escape the development plan. Nat Ma Taung National Park and tourism covers 37 villages, the Kaladan Multimodal Transport Transit project will affect the livelihood of thousands in Paletwa township and Lemro dam project plan will drive 60 villages away in southern part of the state.
Local movements to protect mount Victoria (Nat Ma Taung), to save Lemro River and to make Kaladan River healthy have been suppressed by the authorities. Mining in the northern part of the state harms the Zomi community. To suppress the local movements more forces will be sent in the very near future. The remaining population is sure to face food shortage again, same as the famine from bamboo flowering two years ago in those particular areas. Poverty has also increased.
The price of peace is very high
Chin state seems to be the cheapest in the country so peace can be bought and sold at whatever price the government wants. The CNF, the national political front and armed group are silent over the issues in the state. And Chin political parties dare not talk about the issues. Most of them reason that the peace they need may be better in economic terms. Even though some people know that keeping silent for the sake of the peace process is not the proper way but they have to look at the faces of leaders one after another. So the fate of the Chin nationals can be paid with this peace process and there will be no more Chins in Chin state.
This is the direction the peace process is going. When it is time to talk about national politics, which Thein Sein calls ‘Comparative to Panglong,’ Chin state may have a small population. Thinking beyond the reach is now happening in Chin politics. We need leaders, who can match ground level issues with national politics urgently. We need a Daniel who dared to say ‘NO’ to King Nebuchad’s officer and multiplied the followers who dared to say the ‘SAME’ to the King himself even in a situation of life and death. This is the way to save the Chin people from the impact of so called development brought on by the peace process.