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Myanmar’s Ethnic Powder Keg

PRAGUE – Two years have passed since Myanmar (Burma) held its first general election after more than two decades of military dictatorship. The popular vote was hailed as an important step in the country’s transition from military to civilian rule, and the economy has made impressive strides under President Thein Sein’s civilian government. But, if the country cannot resolve its long-running ethnic conflicts, all of this progress could be undone.

Troubled relations between Burma’s government and its ethnic minorities constitute a serious obstacle in the country’s path to stability and prosperity. Indeed, Burma’s recent history has been plagued by ethnic violence and protracted conflicts with government forces, particularly in Karen, Shan, and Kachin states.