Ethnic Wa rebels said at a recent conference in Lashio in Shan State they would continue to work toward achieving an independent state in eastern Burma.
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has an estimated 20,000 troops based in northern and southern Shan State.
“We have been demanding our own independent state since we reached a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1989. But the government didn’t give any response until now. In the 2008 Constitution, our region is described as an ‘autonomous division’,” Aung Myint, a UWSA spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy.
The announcement by the UWSA came at a conference of ethnic Shan and Karenni groups in Lashio on March 22.
Aung Myint said UWSA representatives who attended the former regime-backed National Convention talks in 1993 also supported independence.
“We do not want separation. We want to develop our region for our people. And we have a long history of staying independent,” said Aung Myint.
The ethnic Wa, who make up about 1 million of the roughly 60 million people of Burma, live mostly in Shan State.
Sai Leik, the spokesperson for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, said: “Wa representatives said they will never separate from the country. But they want a Wa State. If all of the people in the country agree with that, we will have to agree, too. And it is an issue that all leaders of ethnic groups should find an answer to.”
Saw Than Myint, the spokesman for the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, said the only way to resolve the issue was to hold an open dialogue with all the parties involved, including the central government.
“We are not against the Wa as they have the right to demand an independent state. But this could lead to a domino effect, with everyone granted autonomy seeking an independent state,” he added.