By Helena Gronberg
Since the signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) between the government of Myanmar and eight of the 15 rebel groups active in the country (in October), the question on everyone’s mind is, “what next?” The main question begging for an answer is what role the military will have in the upcoming political dialogue. Other uncertainties include the competition for power among alternative political forces inside the country, the extent of participation in the political dialogue/ peace process by the country’s population at large, including women, and how the recent ceasefire agreements between the government and the various ethnic insurgent groups will play out.
It is widely understood that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) is an important process on the road from active military engagement to post-conflict settlement. But in Myanmar, a country where non-state armed groups (NSAGs) have long looked at DDR with great suspicion, putting forth a comprehensive DDR program will not be an easy task. Furthermore, NSAGs frequently prefer to focus not on disarmament, rather other issues, like social and economic reintegration of armed combatants – what they perceive as the grievances, or ‘root causes’ for their taking up arms in the first place.
As Security Sector Reform (SSR) has wider implications than DDR – in that it includes a range of reforms such as judiciary- and police reforms – DDR could be used as a tool for a broader SSR that might also be more attractive to the armed ethnic groups that are so suspicious of DDR efforts. DDR and SSR could thus be mutually reinforcing. Indeed, Knight (2009) argues that military integration in some post-war contexts can be integrated with SSR, including in the police and the judiciary. Furthermore, according to research undertaken in Myanmar (Kyed and Gravers 2014) this might well be an option there as well. Some NSAGs have indicated that they could envisage themselves in a reformed Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces).
According to the UN, SSR in a country in transitional like Myanmar can be aimed at introducing “the principles of democratic governance to the security sector.” The objective is to create public trust in security institutions. It thus seems imperative to include NSAGs in any SSR process. The link between DDR and SSR relates to rightsizing security bodies in the context of post-settlement restructuring. Security personnel who may be downsized as part of this process are likely to require reinsertion and reintegration support.
Kyed and Gravers (2014) suggest that community policing as an integration mechanism for ex-combatants could be considered as part of a wider SSR process that could include members of NSAGs as well as government militias. Such initiatives should be based on proper understanding of existing village defense forces, government militias and NSAG security providers, and the power dynamics that they are embedded in (Kyed and Gravers 2014).
But Myanmar faces many challenges to achieving this. The decades of military rule are still very visible as the military continues to hold on to power and call the shots. Any DDR and SSR will need to be integral parts of the political dialogue.
Knight, M. (2009). Security Sector Reform: Post-Conflict Integration, GFN-SSR. University of Birmingham.
Kyed, H. M and M. Gravers. (2014). Non-State Armed Groups in the Myanmar Peace Process: What are the Future Options? DIIS Working Paper. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies