The United Wa State Army’s demand to upgrade its self-administered region into a fully autonomous state will be decided in line with constitutional provisions, according to the Union Peacemaking Work Committee.
The move was discussed during a meeting organised between the government and the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in Kengtung on July 12 after increased military tensions between the two parties.
“The Wa’s demand is not a new matter. Their delegates attended the National Convention in 1993 during which they demanded to upgrade self-administered region into a state. Since then they had already realised that their demand would be decided in line with the constitutional provisions. In addition, their demand was meant for sometime in the future,” said Thein Zaw, the vice-chairman of Union Peacemaking Work Committee.
Despite a decrease in skirmishes between the Myanmar army and the UWSA, both sides are attempting to gain military advantage and control of the southern Wa region. The army also reportedly demanded that the Wa make a list of the number of its outposts and move some of them to which they have not complied leading to further stand-offs.
However, the Kengtung meeting mainly highlighted root causes for military tensions. Both sides reached an agreement on the withdrawal of the troops, according to UWSA spokesman Aung Myint.
“Misunderstanding has led to the increased military tension, but leaders of the both sides are seeking ways to reconcile the situation,” said Lt-Gen Aung Than Htut, Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services.
The UWSA has an estimated 30,000 soldiers and is the military wing of the United Wa State Party (UWSP). In return for political concessions, they helped the government fight a communist insurgency and to defeat the famed Shan opium warlord Khun Sa who was active in southern Shan State. After Khun Sa surrendered, the government granted self-administrative status to the southern Wa region.
There are an estimated 600,000 people residing in the remote Wa region of North Eastern Myanmar which comprises an area of 17,000 Sq/km.
Since forming, the USWA announced that it would live peacefully together with the army even making commercial ties with the government. Despite the USWA officially announcing that they have stopped the poppy cultivation, the international community still consider strong links with the production of narcotic drugs.
Tension between the regime and the UWSA has increased in 2009. The UWSA refused to accept the regime’s plan to reduce its troops and transform them into Border Guard Forces under the command of the army. Since then, Wa gradually increased its troops. The UWSA has its headquarters is in Panghsang in northern Wa region, and is active mainly in Mongmao, Pangwaun, Namphan, Mong Pauk, Mong Yang and Hopang.
The Kengtung meeting was intended to initiate political dialogue to build trust and cooperation between the USWA and the government.
“We tended to choose the side of political dialogue and also exchanged views on national solidarity with the UWSA. We offered them to live up to the Constitution and participate in the parliament,” said Thein Zaw.