Myanmar’s ethnic armed group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), has dismissed report from Janes Intelligence’s that it acquired five armed helicopters from China.
The news posted on the website, http://www.janes.com, said China delivered several Mil Mi-17 ‘Hip’ medium-transport helicopters armed with TY-90 air-to-air missiles to the Wa aermy in late February and early March. The WA received five helicopters but according to a source of the Myanmar government, only two were confirmed.
MI-17 helicopters armed with TY-90 air-to-air missiles can deter Russia-made Mi-24P Hind jet fighters which the government used in its counter-insurgency operations against the Kachin Independence Organisation, Janes Intelligence website said.
But the news was not true and the Wa did not receive any assistance from China, San Khun from the foreign affairs department of the United Wa State Party told the Eleven Media Group.
He also refused to make any comments on the news about the rearmament of UWSA and China’s assistance.
“I don’t want to say any more as the news was not true, San Khun said.
Although the news sources are unconfirmed, the Wa has already acquired weaponry that any ethnic armed groups in Myanmar cannot expected over the last four years, political analyst living in the China-Myanmar border told the EMG.
“Regarding the recent news on purchasing warhead helicopters from China, the official from the UWSA hasn’t made any comments or confirmed when we asked,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.
However, they could purchase those helicopters if they wish with the current budget, sources say.
“We don’t know whether military weapons, arms and equipment are being imported from China or Ukraine. They are imported via Maekong River from Laos? Sources said, last year, about two hundred trucks loads of arms and weapons were imported. The UWSA did not confirmed over the information leakage either. But It is confirmed that the UWSA has requested the government to allow for an airport project in Tangyan,” Aung Kyaw Zaw added.
The expanding of military power in UWSA shows the country’s unfinished conflicts between the government and ethnic armed forces.
“The government’s troops are not only battling with Kachin Independence Army (KIA) but also with Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA). Besides the government troops are also sometimes fighting with USWA based on the west of Thanlwin River. This is one of the facts for the USWA to beef up military power,” he added.
The UWSA is one of the armed forced army that did not accept to become a border guard force as demanded by the government. It is the strongest ethnic armed force in the country. It has more than 30,000 soldiers and modern weapons. It was the second secession group from Burma Communist Party (BCP). It confiscated the BCP’s headquarter on April 17, 1989. The BCP’s headquarter was located in Wa Region.
Since its inception, UWSP has declared to live peacefully together with the military, and built bilateral relations. At the time of the State Law and Order Restoration Council, UWSP signed a ceasefire agreement with the government, which later designated the Special Region (2) of Northern Shan State as ‘Wa’ region. Then, the UWSA had nearly 10,000 soldiers.
In 1993, representatives from UWSA attended the National Convention of the country, and they cooperated with other ethnic armed forces.
After General Khin Nyunt was expelled from his post in 2004, the Wa people had some arguments with the government. A year later, UWSA officially claimed they had stopped growing opium, but the international community believed their ‘Wa’ groups were still linked to drugs and opium.
In 2009, UWSA opposed the government’s plan to form border security forces. Since then, they had strengthened military power, analysts said.
With regard to the issue, UWSP replied they accepted ‘one country, one army’ policy, but not the restructuring of the army. They said they would discuss the issue when the new government took office.
Despite the tensions, the government allowed Hopang, Mongmao, Panwai, Pangsang, Naphan and Metman townships to become two districts of Wa Self-Administered Division, under the 2008 Constitution.
The UWSP has held union level peace talks with the new government since it took office.
Later, the UWSP demanded the government to upgrade the Wa self-administered division into a state. Also, they tried to expand their military strength, according to the political analysts.
Some news erupted that China helped in the expanding of Wa’s military strength. However, in early January 2013, China refused the arms sales to the UWSA.
Eleven Media Group asked the President’s spokesperson Ye Htut, also deputy minister of information, about China’s sending armed helicopters to the UWSA by email on April 30, but only received an automatic vacation response from the Gmail service as he was on vacation.
If this information (expanding the military by the assistance of China) is true, it would threaten the sovereignty of the nation. Sai Lake, spokesperson of the Shan National League for Democracy said, “All should condemn this since this would jeopardize the national sovereignty.”
Sai Lake said China’s moves to support military services to the Wa can lead to a conflict at a time when the country is making peace efforts and holding political dialogues.
The Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner, an expert of the background history of the UWSA and Communist Patry of Burma, said he also believed Jane’s report.