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Why the stalemate in Myanmar persists

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Suspended in the air, several feet above Aung San Suu Kyi’s head, was an image of a dove with an olive branch in its beak. Ms Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader, was delivering her opening remarks at the “21st Century Panglong Conference”, a series of talks designed to end the numerous ethnic insurgencies that have ravaged her country since its founding in 1948. The poster of the dove gestures towards the hope Ms Suu Kyi inspired when she was elected in 2015 that she might one day silence the guns.

That day, alas, is nowhere close. Sporadic clashes continue to occur in Kachin, Kayin and Shan states. A new conflict has since 2018 erupted in Rakhine and neighbouring Chin states, where nearly 1,000 civilians have died and at least 80,000 people been displaced. On August 19th, 230 delegates from the government, the army and ten ethnic-minority groups gathered in Naypyidaw, the capital since 2006, for a three-day peace pow-wow before a general election in November. They may have wondered, seeing that paper dove, when they will see the flesh-and-blood version.