NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar military put up with the United Wa State Army (UWSA)’s grand-scale military parade in April for the sake of the peace process, despite the fact that the group acted as if it were a parallel government and parallel army, said military (or Tatmadaw) spokesperson Major-General Soe Naing Oo.
The UWSA celebrated the 30th anniversary of its signing of a ceasefire with the government with a military parade on April 17 in Panghsang, showing off some of its military hardware including drones and anti-aircraft missiles.
“The UWSA held a military parade with weapons. We can see that they acted like a parallel government and parallel army. I would say the Tatmadaw has shown the greatest possible tolerance in that regard,” Maj-Gen. Soe Naing Oo told reporters on Friday in Naypyitaw.
When asked by The Irrawaddy why the Tatmadaw tolerated it, he responded, “The Tatmadaw shows tolerance because it wants peace.”
Founded on April 17, 1989, the UWSA signed a ceasefire with Myanmar’s then military government—the State Law and Order Restoration Council—in the same year, after splitting from the Communist Party of Burma (CPB).
It also founded the United Wa State Party and the Wa State People’s Government. Since then the UWSA has quietly grown into the largest, best-equipped ethnic armed group in Myanmar with an estimated 30,000 troops and 10,000 auxiliary members, according to Myanmar Peace Monitor.
Since the ceasefire deal in 1989, there have been no clashes between the UWSA and the Tatmadaw. The Wa army demands autonomy, like other ethnic armed groups in Myanmar.
Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution acknowledges the Wa areas in Shan State as a self-administered region, covering six townships split between two districts. Although such zones are supposed to be under the control of the central government, the Wa effectively exercise total control over the area with their own government and administration.
Wa leader Bao Youxiang repeated the UWSA’s demand for autonomy at the anniversary event. State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing did not attend the celebration despite being invited.
Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team said the Army would officially complain through the UWSA’s liaison office about the parade. “They should not act like a parallel army. A complaint will be made through the liaison office,” he told the reporters.
Nyi Rang, liaison officer at the UWSA’s Lashio Office, said the armed group does not view any group, including the Tatmadaw, as an enemy, and therefore invited all groups to the celebration.
“There are many armed groups, and it is not that we alone stage military parades; all the others do [as well],” he told The Irrawaddy.
Meanwhile, the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), which was formed in 1989 after splitting from the CPB, will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of its signing of a truce on June 30.
Whether the Tatmadaw attends would depend on the nature of the invitation, Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun said.
The NDAA controls Mong La, Nanban and Sele districts, which constitute Shan State Special Region 4, also known as the Mong La Area.
The previous military regime acknowledged the presence of the Wa and Mongla, and designated special zones for them, but the emergence of the 2008 Constitution has called their legitimacy into question, said political analyst U Maung Maung Soe.
“I think [the Tatmadaw is not happy with the UWSA’s military parade] because it is concerned with dignity. It violates the [Tatmadaw’s] policy of a single army,” he said.
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