President Thein Sein of Myanmar (Burma) has signed a ceasefire deal with eight armed rebel groups earlier today, including the Karen National Union, which has been battling the Myanmar government for sixty years. This is a step toward regional peace for Myanmar, which has been engaged in conflict with different ethnic groups since it achieved independence from Great Britain in 1948.
The Nationwide Cease-fire Agreement is the result of two years of negotiations, but unfortunately is a bit if a misnomer as it does not include the two largest rebel groups, the Kachin and the Wa. The ceasefire does not address major issues, such as how power will be balanced between the central government and the ethnic regions and only covers ethnic groups along the Thai border, ignoring the ethnic groups who live along the Chinese border.
The government itself, which straddles a fine line between democracy and military governance, could be a potential threat to this ceasefire, as they have been involved in skirmishes as recently as Wednesday. Regardless, leaders of rebel groups have hailed this as a new page in history, exchanging hugs with army officers, their former enemies. Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu was not present at the signing ceremony, having stated last month she was a bit skeptic of the ceasefire.
General elections will be held November 8 in Myanmar (Burma) with the hopes that this ceasefire will lead to a large, democratic turnout. These elections will be the first time since 1990 that parties will freely challenge the military’s dominance.