Resolving the Kachin Conflict in Myanmar: A Proposal

By Monzima Haque

The intra-state conflict between the government of Myanmar and the Kachin Independent Organization (KIO) that started in 1961, is one of the most ‘hard-to-settle’ ethnic civil wars in the Southeast Asian region. Despite concluding a cease-fire in 1994 that lasted for almost seventeen years, conflict re-erupted between the two actors in 2011 against the backdrop of a series of events, including a dispute over a hydropower dam project in the Taping River, KIO’s refusal to join Border Guard force scheme as well as the inability of the KIO to participate in the 2010 election. The persistent ethnic instability in Myanmar and the impact of this conflict on the probable future peace in the country and the region makes it a persuasive case for analysis. The history of the conflict demonstrates many missed opportunities of conciliation, and at times these windows of opportunity have been turned into vulnerabilities. However, the peace conference held in Myanmar under the new administration in 2016 offers an innovative opportunity for reconciliation. This paper attempts to offer a three-step proposal to manage the seemingly intractable conflict, and argues that a negotiated settlement is the necessary approach for the management of ethnic conflict between the central government and the KIO.

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