The authors echo a statement made by South
, emphasizing the need for international actors supporting parties to the ceasefire “to understand and support authorities grounded in local legitimacy.” Such support for IAs will entail bridging the security sector viewpoints of respective parties to negotiation as it relates to Karen State-— primarily the Tatmadaw,
the current NLD Government, and prominent EAOs— but also give meaningful consideration to the views of other militarised actors currently operating outside the ceasefire but within the purview of the Constitution and networked militarised governance.
IAs do not exist in isolation but coincide with other aspects of the NCA, most notably the military code of conduct currently monitored by Joint Monitoring Committees at Union (JMC-U) and State levels (JMC-S). The military Code of Conduct drafted in accordance to the NCA is a reference to the removal of armed forces from religious sites, schools and even “villages.”
work brought early attention to IAs in anticipating the drawn out implementation of the NCA. He termed areas given above, such as religious sites, schools and even “villages,” humanitarian zones
, typified by the following features:
- No armed troops permitted in these zones
- Free access for all who are unarmed
- Monitoring to make sure no arms are brought into these areas
Accordingly, in their 8 May 2017 article, Lawi Weng and Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint
quoted Col. Wunna Aung, spokesperson for the Burma Army and member of the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee-Union as stating, “Demining is for the people; we will demine near public roads and schools,” he said, adding that the, “Burma Army had agreed not to demine near KNLA bases but that exact locations had not yet been agreed.”
The role of Joint Monitoring Committees at both the Union and State level have been identified as crucial for determining the violations of agreements by parties to the NCA. However, the role and mandate of Joint Monitoring Committees in demarcating land for demining and humanitarian zones without agreement from local representative bodies could place further pressure on the ceasefire process.
While urgent action is needed to increase security, determining a potential role for the JMCs in demining needs to be done cautiously, as their primary monitoring role could also occur with the potential to overlook persisting community concerns regarding mechanisms that promote the encroachment of militarised-based administration. Ultimately, the demarcation of territory and demining in the absence of localised interim authorities could fuel further contestation between militarised actors and existing community administration structures. The result could be contested claims of jurisdiction and hence a stronger case for administration and representation of population groups within these areas.
But more tangibly, it will most likely lead to land-grabbing and the loss of traditional customary rights to land. This could be evidenced by the building of new health and education facilities in areas previously inaccessible to the centralized state, without prior and informed consultation with local population groups
In response to these threats, communities continue to resort to “normalized” militarised protection strategies including the use of landmines to contain outside encroachment and protect their resources. EAO representatives of the JMC-U and the JMC-S interviewed for this paper reported that in EAO controlled areas, “people believe that landmines remain their first line of defence.”
There does exist within the current political framework a role for the JMC to strengthen military respect for codes of conduct in supporting IAs. As a first step, the JMC can take actions to encourage the legitimacy of local security sector governance. This can be achieved by the JMC encouraging parties to the ceasefire (and through militarised networks of personnel on the JMC, extending to respective militaries and militias) to support the role of interim authorities to lead decision-making on the location of humanitarian zones.
In this way, interim authorities would be best placed to identify not only where new hospitals, clinics, schools or religious sites are to be constructed, but to also ensure that administration and delivery of existing social services reflect the nature of existing local governance structures and mechanisms, with minimal or at best without, the presence or influence of militarised actors. Humanitarian mine actors can then be deployed to ensure all humanitarian zones are mine-free, as well as part of initiatives to ensure that such areas remain free of arms.
The inclusion of mine action within IAs follows from the need to develop effective frameworks in security and peace that are inclusive of mine action. One guiding principle
given in the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) publication, ‘Mine Action and Peace Mediation’ is the need for mine action, “to integrate a careful conflict analysis and be more flexible in terms of priority setting in order to adapt to the politically sensitive issues in the peacebuilding agenda”.
To this end, the authors of this article propose the following principles
as starting points for negotiating
the role of mine action in Karen State, to reflect better local communities’ perceptions in the peace:
- Undertake and liaise with communities through localised conflict sensitive approaches, to identify local priorities under the peace process.
- Promote local governance structures for decision-making through ‘interim arrangements’
- Promote the deployment of mine operators once demarcation of humanitarian zones has been agreed.
- Promote security governance priorities in accordance with advocacy of international norms on landmine use.
In this way, IAs can respect the presence of Myanmar’s diverse ethnic and cultural populations and remove decision-making from contested armed actors by placing it within the purview of localised governance structures, representative of local communities. The role of IAs is not only beginning to be seen as a mechanism for strengthening the role of local communities in the peace process, but as perhaps the best mechanism for ensuring a secure environment, inclusive of mine action
—a point highlighted by a recent report conducted by Covenant Consulting.
In the same way, increased legitimacy gained through the act of decision-making by interim authorities regarding humanitarian zones can be leveraged by parties to the ceasefire and international actors to support other humanitarian actions, such as the resettlement of IDPs into new areas, or ensuring that the return of IDPs and refugees to places of origin take place in safe environments enabled by mine action as articulated by interim authorities. In the meantime, community aspirations for greater safety continue with anxiety that removal of landmines with the support of international actors could result in further encroachment of outside actors into their territory.
At this stage, the ceasefire and political dialogue have not halted the prevailing militarisation of population groups in Karen State, nor have they shifted the use of landmines as a form of security for communities in conflict affected areas. Significant progress could be made by valuing the nature of IAs to build legitimacy in security governance, including humanitarian mine action to bring about a safer, more representative and secure Karen State in the future.