Conflict Summary

Recent international analysis of Myanmar’s politics has focused on its transition to a civilian government, albeit supported by the previously-ruling junta, and on the range of reforms – beginning with the constitution of 2008 – carried out as part of the country’s democratisation. However, the country has also been plagued by ethnic conflict and is home to some of the world's longest running insurgencies. While two-thirds of Myanmar’s population is Burman, particularly the hilly border regions are also home to numerous ethnic groups. The Karen and Shan each make up 10% of the population, alongside dozens of smaller groups with diverse grievances. The junta announced a 'roadmap to democracy' in 2003 and in 2008 promulgated a new constitution. The first free general elections held in November 2015 witnessed the main opposition party to the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the National League for Democracy (NLD), win in a landslide. Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD leader who spent nearly two decades under house arrest, is now the de facto civilian leader of the country. In response, Western nations have largely removed economic sanctions against the state – though the military retains control over the security apparatus and significant parts of the state and can veto constitutional amendments. The ongoing peace process begun by the USDP has led to the signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement by eight insurgent groups, but several powerful groups remain outside the process and fighting continues in northern Shan State near the Chinese border. The situation is complicated by the ethnic groups’ lack of clearly articulated aims and by the conflicting strategies of the government and the armed forces. Meanwhile, repression of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine State has led to grave human-rights abuses, mob violence and the emergence of a new armed rebel group in 2016.