Rebel armies back Htin Kyaw

The new government must placate Myanmar’s powerful rebel armies. Source: Wikimedia

 Three ethnic rebel armies currently engaged in conflict with Myanmar’s military says it is eager to broker peace with the new civilian president. 

Meanwhile a vote on Myanmar is expected to be held in the UN Human Rights Council next week.

Myanmar’s next president Htin Kyaw, picked by Aung San Suu Kyi as her proxy, will take office at the end of the month, concluding a prolonged power hand transfer from the army-backed government.

One of their toughest challenges will be resolving civil wars between Nay Pyi Taw and many of the 22 ethnic minority armies in the resource-rich borderlands.

A recent surge of violence in northeastern Shan state, which has seen near-constant conflict in recent decades, had forced at least 10,000 people from their homes since early February, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported.

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has accused government forces of committing serious violations, including forced labour, torture and ill treatment and sexual violence against woman.

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which is currently fighting government forces, is one of the rebel armies that did not sign a ceasefire with the government last October. Only eight groups signed the peace deal.

A TNLA spokesman said its troops were tired of war and were ready to work with Htin Kyaw.

“The new government has offered hope not only for our ethnic people but also the whole nation. It is an elected government and they really know the people’s wishes,” said Mai Aik Kyaw. He said the quasi-civilian administration of Thein Sein had failed to bring the peace it promised.

Two other ethnic minority armies excluded from October’s peace talks joined the TNLA in pledging support for the president-elect.

“Our armies are ready to find a real and better solution for ending the civil wars, seeing through a peace process and rebuilding Myanmar with the hope of national reconciliation by cooperating with the government of president U Htin Kyaw,” the TNLA, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Arakan Army said in a joint statement.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) has a huge electoral mandate and massive goodwill to push for peace.

The NLD has vowed to make peace a priority and says it will create a new ministry for ethnic affairs.

But a key challenge will be smoothing relations with the military, which has retained significant political power and could derail peace talks.

More than 100 civil society organisations in Myanmar have written to the UN asking for it to continue monitoring “massive human rights challenges” in the country.

They also called for a permanent Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights to be opened in the country.