UWSA says not to worry about Mongla ‘ex­er­cise’

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

THE United Wa State Army is seek­ing to al­lay fears that it has in­vaded the ter­ri­tory of its neigh­bour­ing eth­nic armed group and ally.

UWSA leader Bao Yu Xiang said in a let­ter sent to the peace com­mis­sion that the re­cent de­ploy­ment of Wa fight­ers into Mongla-con­trolled ter­ri­tory was not an in­tru­sion, but a heavy mil­i­tary ex­er­cise.

“Main­tain­ing peace and then on dis­in­te­gra­tion of the Union, pri­or­iti sing eco­nomic devel­op­ment, and im­prove­ment in so­cial sta­tus are the goals of the United Wa State Army. We will not eas­ily seek … armed hos­til­i­ties,” the let­ter said.

Bao Yu Xiang said he has in­structed his sub­or­di­nates not to ex­ag­ger­ate the sit­u­a­tion, or paint it as a mis­un­der­stand­ing be­tween the Mongla and the Wa troops.

“The sub­or­di­nate lead­ers from both sides have had ef­fec­tive talks and re­solved dis­putes peace­fully,” Bao Yu Xiang was quoted as say­ing in the state­ment.

Last week, the peace com­mis­sion sent a let­ter to the UWSA re­quest­ing it with­draw its troops and solve the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the area by peace­ful means.

The Wa and the Mongla, both al­lies of China, op­er­ate au­ton­o­mous en­claves along the bor­der. On Septem­ber 28, a con­voy of as many as 600 Wa sol­diers crossed over the bor­der into ter­ri­tory con­trolled by its Mongla ally, the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army (NDAA), ac­cord­ing to Shan Her­ald Agency for News.

The re­port al­leged that the Wa troops had cap­tured two moun­tain out­posts – Loi Ki­uh­sai and Loi Hsarm Hsoom – as well as a strate­gic bor­der check­point in the Mongla ter­ri­tory, and then ar­rested more than 150 guards. The de­tained sol­diers were later re­leased.

U Aung Kyi, a mem­ber of gov­ern­ment’s peace com­mis­sion, said, “We want the sit­u­a­tion to be peace­ful and sta­ble.”

He de­nied that any­thing “bad or se­ri­ous” was oc­cur­ring in the eastern Shan State fief­doms, but ac­knowl­edged that it is also im­pos­si­ble to know what is re­ally hap­pen­ing be­tween two of the coun­try’s strong­est eth­nic armed groups.

“We do not know what is re­ally hap­pen­ing on the ground and it’s hard to com­ment un­der these cir­cum­stances,” he said.

The UWSA has an es­ti­mated strength of nearly 20,000 fight­ers, whereas the Mongla’s NDAA has an es­ti­mated 3000 fight­ers, ac­cord­ing to the Myan­mar Peace Mon­i­tor.

Bao Yu Xiang noted in his let­ter to the peace com­mis­sion that the UWSA and the Mongla both pledge to solve any con­tentions through peace­ful means.

“Co­op­er­at­ing with the gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­tre, I hope that we will soon start peace and po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses af­ter set­tling the three-step peace treaties,” said the state­ment.

How­ever, gov­ern­ment peace ne­go­tia­tors said they be­lieve the three­tiered peace treaties re­ferred to by the UWSA leader stem for a mis­un­der­stand­ing. Fol­low­ing from an ex­pla­na­tion of­fered in the UWSA’s pol­icy pa­per submitted to the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, the treaties ap­pear to mean the two state-level and one Union-level bi­lat­eral cease­fire agree­ment the Wa have signed, in­clud­ing with then-pres­i­dent U Thein Sein af­ter 2011, as well as the cease­fire agree­ment that the Wa inked with the mil­i­tary regime in 1989.

Mongla rep­re­sen­ta­tives do not seem to share the UWSA’s per­spec­tive about the re­cent “mil­i­tary ex­er­cise” or any dis­pute of cease­fire sign­ings, how­ever.

In an in­ter­view with The Ir­rawaddy this week, U Kyi Myint, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army (bet­ter known as the Mongla), said the NDAA lead­ers are dis­ap­pointed its ally’s man­ners.

More than 1000 fight­ers are de­ployed in the Mongla’s strate­gic ter­ri­tory and check­points, U Kyi Myint said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mongla of­fi­cials, the Wa fight­ers crossed the bor­der be­tween the two groups’ ter­ri­to­ries to ig­nite a hos­tile in­va­sion. The move dealt a shock to the Mongla lead­ers who thought they were main­tain­ing a good re­la­tion­ship with the Wa lead­ers.

The UWSA had re­port­edly been or­dered by the Tat­madaw’s Tri­an­gle Re­gional Com­mand to with­draw its troops from the Mongla ter­ri­tory by Oc­to­ber 24. Tat­madaw spokes­peo­ple could not con­firm this re­quest.

Dur­ing an Oc­to­ber 14 high level na­tional se­cu­rity meet­ing, State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Com­man­der-in-Chief Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion in Mongla, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice, which did not add fur­ther de­tails.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts see the devel­op­ment be­tween the two armed eth­nic groups al­lied for more than two decades as pre­sag­ing a mil­i­tary es­ca­la­tion along the bor­der.

With its troops positioned in the north and south, and the Mongla ter­ri­tory be­tween them, the Wa’s troop move­ment served to con­nect its two mil­i­tary po­si­tions, said U Ye Htun, a for­mer par­lia­men­tar­ian.

Since the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and Devel­op­ment Party-led ad­min­is­tra­tion, the UWSA have de­manded the gov­ern­ment to up­grade its self-ad­min­is­tered zone into an eth­nic state. The re­quest so far con­tin­ues to be snubbed. Through­out the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions, the Wa have re­mained aloof, and did not sign last year’s nationwide cease­fire agree­ment. The group only sent a low-level del­e­ga­tion to the Na­tional League for Democ­racy’s Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, and even that group walked out shortly af­ter the meet­ing be­gan. How­ever, the Wa have ex­pressed in­ter­ested in be­ing in­volved in the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue stages.

U Ye Htun said the gov­ern­ment should fo­cus on ne­go­ti­at­ing with the big­ger fish in the peace pro­cess, such as the UWSA.

“The gov­ern­ment should first learn the state of the threat posed by the larger play­ers, what their de­mands are and how ne­go­ti­a­tions can reach a set­tle­ment,” he said. “Af­ter it makes peace with the large play­ers, the gov­ern­ment’s deal­ings with the small groups un­der the in­flu­ence of the large play­ers will not be a prob­lem any more.”

Photo: EPA

A Tat­madaw sol­dier car­ries a rocket launcher on his shoul­der as he walks on a road in north­ern Shan State.

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