Myanmar Ethnic Armies AA and UWSA Leaders Meet to Build Relations

By The Irrawaddy 16 September 2022

New leaders of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and deputy commander-in-chief of the Arakan Army Brigadier General Nyo Tun Aung recently met in Mongla, eastern Shan State.

Brig-Gen Nyo Tun Aung, 41, traveled from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) headquarters in Laiza to Mongla to meet the UWSA’s new deputy leader, Bao Ai Chan, also known as Bao Junping, 41.

Arakan Army deputy commander-in-chief Brigadier General Nyo Tun Aung.

Bao Ai Chan is a nephew of long-time UWSA chairman Bao Youxiang and was promoted to deputy commander-in-chief UWSA in August. Bao Youxiang’s son, Bao Ai Kham, who is in his 30s, was appointed deputy general secretary.

The new Wa leaders are well-educated and speak fluent Burmese and Chinese while older leaders spoke only Wa and Chinese, according to sources.

The Wa media said the meeting aimed to establish personal ties between the allies and deepen cooperation.

The AA has been fighting for federal power in Rakhine State and refused to attend peace talks with junta chief Min Aung Hlaing. Myanmar’s military and the AA agreed an informal ceasefire ahead of the November 2020 general election after around two years of fighting in Rakhine State and neighboring Paletwa Township in Chin State.

But fighting has recently broken out across much of Rakhine State and in Paletwa.

The regime is conducting air strikes against the AA in Maungdaw Township near the Bangladeshi border. The AA might have asked the UWSA for tactical advice and anti-aircraft weapons, according to observers.

UWSA liaison officer Nyi Rang in Lashio, Shan State, told The Irrawaddy that he could not give details of the meeting.

A UWSA parade in April 2019 to mark the 30th anniversary of its ceasefire with Myanmar’s government.

The UWSA has reportedly held similar meetings with the powerful Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

An ethnic affairs analyst said: “The meeting aimed to build ties between younger leaders of the UWSA and AA. As the AA leadership is also young, there can be closer cooperation. The UWSA sees the AA as important, partly because it could offer access to the Indian Ocean.”

A UWSA parade in April 2019 to mark the 30th anniversary of its ceasefire with Myanmar’s government.

The AA might have requested weapons and ammunition from the UWSA, said the analyst.

“The KIA has previously supplied the AA but the KIA has to supply the resistance groups now and also fight the regime. So the AA might be looking for new sources,” he added.

A Rakhine politician, who asked for anonymity, said: “There are no discussions with the regime. The UWSA, MNDAA and KIA helped create the AA. The AA is happy to build an alliance with the UWSA and does not worry about souring its relations with the regime. It keeps chasing its ambition no matter what others think.”