TAUNGGYI, Myanmar – A draft national cease-fire deal was agreed in March, but whether the agreement will be signed is questionable, given that the government has refused to recognize six of the 21 ethnic armed groups as potential signatories. The government’s stance has caused a rift among the ethnic organizations. Some, including the powerful Karen National Union and the Restoration Council of Shan State – Shan State Army South, said in August that they would back the deal regardless of others’ involvement, but have since wavered. The Kachin Independence Organization, with an estimated 10,000 fighters, has said it will not sign the national cease-fire without all armed groups on board. If the Kachin were to opt out, any deal would be toothless. “You really need the Kachin involved for it to be comprehensive,” said a close observer of the negotiations, who did not want to be identified.
TAUNGGYI, Myanmar — For parliamentary hopeful Sai Lynn Myat, Myanmar’s Nov. 8 legislative elections could lead to some lively banter around the family dinner table. His father-in-law, Kyaw Khin, is a central executive committee member of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, while Sai Lynn Myat is running for the rival Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. Ironically, his SNLD office is just off the main street of Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State. The thoroughfare is named after Gen. Aung San, a Myanmar independence hero and father of Suu Kyi. The street in the breezy hill town, 1,436 meters above sea level, bustles with hawkers peddling fried snacks in front of new mobile phone shops and colorful boutiques selling traditional garb.
TAUNGGYI — When Myanmar’s government on Aug. 10 issued a directive for a handful of military medical personnel to be posted to the country’s public hospitals, civilian medics were quick to react. Within three days, a Facebook page full of photos of doctors and nurses in hospitals across Myanmar — all with black ribbons fastened to their white coats to protest the move — had gained over 40,000 followers. “Most of the serving doctors and staff here are wearing the black ribbons,” said Htar Htar Nyein, a surgeon at the main hospital, a five-minute walk from the military’s eastern command here in the Shan state capital. Issued three months ahead of what is being billed as Myanmar’s first free and fair elections in 25 years, the surprise directive was a reminder of the military-dominated past.