The leader of Myanmar’s largest armed ethnic group told the government’s peace commission that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) wants to avoid an all-out war with another armed ethnic group in the restive Shan State.
United Wa State leader Bao You Xiang told Myanmar’s peace commission in an Oct. 21 letter that the Wa State Army and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) can work out their differences, RFA’s Myanmar Service has learned.
On Sept 28 UWSA troops occupied NDAA posts in Mongla and arrested 150 NDAA troops. Although the UWSA released these troops, it didn’t give the posts back to the NDAA, also known as the Mongla group.
NDAA territory is self-administered by the Mongla group and is officially known in as Special Region 4.
While the NDAA and the UWSA have a long history of close relations, those relations have been strained over the recent peace initiative that is being pushed by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de-facto leader.
According to local media reports, Wa representatives attempted to coerce the NDAA into sending a low-level delegation to attend the 21st Century Panglong Conference, which began on 31 August.
Aung San Suu Kyi heads the peace effort that gathered chief delegates from almost every faction and group in the country.
In the end, NDAA leader Sai Luen attended the conference in person, and the UWSA representatives walked out of the conference on the first day.
UWSA warned lower level troops against escalating the conflict, however, and agreed to coordinate with government’s peace commission, the letter said.
Leaders of the Triangle Regional Command also warned UWSA to withdraw its troops and closed two checkpoints that connect the Mongla and UWSA areas, while Aung San Suu Kyi, President Htin Kyaw and high-ranking military officials discussed the problem during a special meeting of national security and protection committee on October 14.
Local people return
While tensions are still high in the region, residents of the area began going back home as government offices reopened and stability returned to the city of Mongla.
“I don’t think the problem will get bigger as it is like fighting between two brothers, and the government is negotiating with them,” said one resident who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“I think the Wa group doesn’t want the problem to get bigger, as it is a time when all are working on peace,” the resident added.
While the government and the ethnic groups attempt to resolve the conflict, the Myanmar army’s Northern Command is holding talks with their counter parts in China regarding border security in the Kachin state, sources tell RFA.
The meeting will continue on Wednesday as China’s representatives are scheduled to visit jade and jewel shops in Myitkyina. The countries hold meetings every year to discuss border security issues.
Fighting has also broken out in Kachin state, where most of Myanmar’s jade and mineral reserves are located.
Kachin has deep economic ties with China, which is the area’s biggest trading partner and also a destination for much of the jade mined in the area.
Reported by Kyaw Thu and Kyaw Myo Min for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.