MYITKYINA, MYANMAR —
As Myanmar’s National League for Democracy prepares to take power, many of the country’s ethnic groups remain hopeful of better and more peaceful times ahead.
In Myanmar’s ethnic states, more than 200,000 people remain displaced from past wars and ethnic violence.
Many in the ethnic groups have pinned their hopes on Aung San Suu Kyi, who’s promised to bring peace between ethnic forces and the country’s powerful army.
Kachin mother Dah Poh was too busy watching over her three children in a Myitkyina camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP) to vote last November.
Now she counts the days until her husband - a Kachin Independence soldier - will be able to return home.
“I hope for a day when we can return to our village after political problems are solved. My husband can now return only once a year, and I can’t go and find a job outside the camp because my children are still very young, and I need to watch them and be with them,” she said.
But critics question the effectiveness of national peace talks, saying they are aimed to divide ethnic factions.
In Shan state, a recent signatory of the Nation-wide cease-fire agreement is now fighting against a fellow ethnic force.
Myanmar analyst and author Bertil Lintner says the strategy is nothing new for the ruling military in their decades-long strategy against ethnic forces.
“The military is fighting a kind of proxy war. They don’t want to be seen as attacking the group themselves so they are using one group, this particular Shan army, to fight the Palang and this serves the military’s interest because you have to remember what they want is a final victory. They want to defeat these groups," he said.
As the conflicts continue, many ethnic groups remain armed - wary of the 2008 constitution that heavily favors the military.
“They are like an independent organization. They are not controlled by the parliament, not controlled by the government. They are independent. So this is the biggest challenge by the NLD,” said Tar Pa La, spokesperson of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
For now all eyes remain on the NLD’s next move - hoping for signs of when thousands will be able to return home.