UWSA: Signing Nationwide Ceasefire Accord Is 50-50

United Wa State Army, Myanmar, Burma, Shan State, Defense, helicopters, TY-90, air to air

Sai Sam, deputy commander-in-chief of the UWSA, observes peace talks between the government and Kachin rebels in Myitkyina last week. (Photo: Saw Yan Naing / The Irrawaddy)

MYITKYINA, Kachin State — The chances of Burma’s strongest ethnic armed group signing an upcoming nationwide ceasefire accord are 50-50, according to a senior United Wa State Army (UWSA) official.

The Burma government is pushing to secure a nationwide agreement with all armed groups soon, and government-led negotiators met with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) last week to try to reach a deal with one of the only armed groups left in the country without a ceasefire agreement.

But Sai Sam, deputy commander-in-chief of the UWSA, who attended the talks in the Kachin capital, told The Irrawaddy there was only an even chance the Wa group would sign the nationwide agreement.

“We will see it [the accord] first. If it matches what we want, we will sign it. If it is not in line with what we want, we cannot sign it,” said Sai Sam.

“We will need to discuss what we disagree about. We want our region and people to benefit [from the peace process].”

The well-armed UWSA—which reached a new ceasefire in September 2011 to replace a 1989 agreement with Burma’s military regime—has demanded its own autonomous region in eastern Shan State, eastern Burma.

Its representatives, including Sai Sam, observed peace talks in Myitkyina from Oct. 8 to 10—where the KIO and the government did not reach a ceasefire, but agreed to work toward one.

The UWSA will also likely send its representatives to a meeting of ethnic leaders to be hosted by the KIO next month at its headquarters at Laiza, on the Burma-China border. Sai Sam said the UWSA leadership still had to decide whether to join the KIO-organized meeting.

“We will maintain our current position. We will move forward depending on what we will face in the future. So far, we see no threat. We don’t have any problem with government after we signed the ceasefire agreement,” said Sai Sam.

However, tension mounted between government troops and Wa rebels in July this year, with both sides saying they were waiting for orders to open fire. At that time, both the Burma Army and the UWSA deployed troops to possible confrontation areas such as Mongton, Mong Hsat and Pongpakhem in southern Shan State.

“We had a little problem in the past [in July], but we have already solved it,” Sai Sam said. “They pulled out their troops in some areas and we also pulled out our troops. We are in normal conditions now.”

The UWSA, which has been linked to the production and trafficking of heroin and methamphetamine in Shan State, has an estimated 25,000 well-equipped fighters. It is reportedly armed with modern weapons such as air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles.

Intelligence monitor Jane’s Information Group reported recently that China has sold five helicopters to ethnic the UWSA in late February and early March this year. The helicopters can be armed with TY-90 air-to-air missiles, said the report.

The UWSA’s Sai Sam, however, denied the report.

“We don’t have such helicopters,” he said. “But, we do have one helicopter and a small aircraft without engine in a public park for show. We only have its body. It can’t fly. We keep it there for visitors to see or photograph it.”

3 Responses to UWSA: Signing Nationwide Ceasefire Accord Is 50-50

  1. George Than Setkyar Heine

    “The well-armed UWSA—which reached a new ceasefire in September 2011 to replace a 1989 agreement with Burma’s military regime—has demanded its own autonomous region in eastern Shan State, eastern Burma”.
    That certainly is tantamount to CHALLENGING the NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY of the UNION of BURMA no less.
    And it could be deemed as a message – the UWSA controlled Wa State of Burma has NO WILL much less DESIRE to REMAIN in the future FEDERAL UNION of BURMA – as well no doubt.
    Of course BURMA – the BURMA ARMY and the PEOPLE of BURMA specifically – would NOT ACCEPT not to mention ALLOW an autonomous region under the command of the UWSA – an ethnic Chinese led DRUG PRODUCING and TRAFFICKING OUTFIT as well – to RUN ROUGHSHOD in the country I bet.
    Since day one the ethnic Chinese led UWSA has the HIDDEN AGENDA of its own – CLAIM the WA STATE as its own with a view to CARVE OUT a CHUNK of BURMA and ESTABLISH a CHINESE FIEFDOM in Burma.
    Most heinously as well is the fact, this is the LAST CARD in order/waiting for the communists in Beijing to PLAY in case their PLOY to ANNEX BURMA as a PROVINCE of CHINA via LAND GRABBING and JOINT VENTURE GIMMICKS – Letpadaung Copper Mine, Myitsone Dam Project, Pipelines to YUNNAN amongst many in store in Burma – WENT AWRY or FAILED of course.

    • Don’t the Wa have the right to decide what is good for them? Why do Burman always think only they deserve the right to make decisions for the whole country? Burman had the chance to prove that they could lead the country to prosperity and better lives, but they failed miserably. So, now Wa along with other ethnic groups are taking matters in their own hand to better their lives. If the Burman are civilized people as they claim to be, they should respect the choice of the ethnic groups and leave them alone instead of behaving like an ex-lover with history of alcoholism and physical abuse.

      Let it go, move on and go back to your Momma.

      • I totally agree with Thein Nget’s comment. Burman came from “Tha Kaung” as we learned in school that “Burman’s origin is Tha Kaung”. All Burmans go back to Tha Kaung and leave non-Burman people alone. Mind your own business.

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