“China today rebuked Myanmar and called for an immediate ceasefire between Myanmar government forces and ethnic minority rebels after an artillery shell flew over the border and landed inside China for the second time since late December,” Reuters reports.
Beijing called for an end to the conflict between the military and rebel forces in the northern Kachin state.
“The call marks a rare public criticism of Myanmar’s government by China, which has cultivated close relations with its southern neighbor and invested heavily in the country’s natural resources,” the FT reports:
China’s rebuke surprised some diplomats who noted that Beijing has been a key supplier of military hardware to Myanmar’s army. “Quite possibly the shells that fell into China could have been supplied by Beijing,” said one western diplomat.
“One of the most laudable achievements of Myanmar’s ongoing process of democratic reform,” The Economist suggests….
….has been the ceasefire agreements the new government has signed with all of the major ethnic insurgent groups—all but one, that is: the Kachin, under the banner of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), fight on. Unfortunately, that single conflict has become big and ugly enough to cast a lengthening shadow over the rest of Myanmar’s progress.
At the beginning of the year footage shot by Free Burma Rangers, a quasi-military, humanitarian-support group, clearly showed helicopter gunships attacking rebel positions. …. According to some analysts, even in the darkest days of the old military regime, air power was never used in this way against the ethnic militias.
Kachin activists have called for international pressure, including sanctions, to be maintained on the government until the conflict is resolved.
“If you look at it right now, even in the different ethnic areas all the companies are run by the government,” Kachin activist Bauk Gyar, told a meeting at the National Endowment for Democracy. “Therefore if you open the road to people coming and doing business, the ethnic people will have to suffer more than before,” she said.
The Kachin conflict threatens to undermine the country’s reform process, which is set to enter a new stage.
“Myanmar is set to unveil the most comprehensive outline yet of its planned reforms over the next three years,” the FT reports:
The proposed reforms, detailed in a 45-page document, will be presented this weekend to the first main gathering of donor governments and organizations since President Thein Sein came to power in early 2011. Donors, including governments and international organizations, will in turn pledge to “align assistance” with the country’s national and local priorities, consult civil society and local communities, and use “conflict-sensitive and inclusive approaches” to support peace and state-building.
Donor governments and organizations are expected to sign a non-binding agreement with the government that will form the basis of aid and assistance plans for the country. Some Yangon-based diplomats described the so-called “Naypyitaw Accord” as symbolizing “stage two” of the country’s emergence from decades of diplomatic and economic isolation under harsh military rule.
The government will pledge in the accord to strengthen the rule of law, promote transparency in aid management and public administration and accelerate peace building, political reforms and development initiatives, among other measures.
“This is a critical moment for Myanmar,” said one southeast Asian diplomat. “They have to show they are getting across the issues, that they are getting their house in order – donors need to see there is a real sense of priorities and awareness of how to achieve them.”
The basis of the accord is a document called “framework for economic and social reforms”, drafted by Myanmar’s ministry of national planning and economic development as well as state-funded think-tanks.
The report outlines proposals – including a series of “quick win” reforms achievable within three years – aimed at building what the government calls “sound foundations for medium and longer-term development”. Ultimately, the report says, the changes will transform Myanmar into a “modern, developed and democratic country”.