Burma

Myanmar’s Largest Ethnic Armed Group Invites Military Chief to Visit

By Zin Lin Htet 21 May 2020

Yangon — Chairman of United Wa State Party (UWSP) Bao Youxiang has invited Myanmar’s military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to visit Wa State and “give guidance”.

External relations officer Nyi Rang of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the military arm of the UWSP, said the invitation was to promote bilateral ties.

Founded on April 17, 1989, the UWSA signed a ceasefire with the then military government — the State Law and Order Restoration Council — in the same year, after splitting from the Communist Party of Burma.

Since then, the UWSA has grown into the largest, best-equipped ethnic armed group in Myanmar with an estimated 30,000 troops and 10,000 auxiliary members, according to the Myanmar Peace Monitor.

“It is not that we have just made the invitation. We have extended an invitation for a long time. We hope he will come and give guidance, which is necessary to foster friendship, amity and trust,” said Nyi Rang.

A military delegation led by the commander of the Northeastern Command, Major General Aung Zaw Aye, donated medical supplies for COVID-19 prevention to the UWSP headquarters in Panghsang on Tuesday.

At the event, the UWSP delegation gave a letter of acknowledgment to Myanmar’s military chief, inviting him to visit Wa State.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun confirmed the UWSP’s invitation. “U Bao Youxiang expressed thanks [for the donation]. He made the invitation in the letter.”

He did not say if Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing would accept the invitation.

The military chief called for cooperation among all groups in fighting COVID-19 when explaining the donation to Wa State.

The military donated 40,000 surgical masks, 2,000 N95 face masks, 500 face shields, 10 tubs of bleach powder, 1,000 sets of protective equipment and hand gel, according to the military spokesman.

In April 2019, the UWSA invited State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing to mark the 30th anniversary of its signing of a ceasefire with the government in Panghsang. Neither attended the event.

“They have invited the highest-level leaders of the country to their region, perhaps to ease tensions, build political relations and articulate their positions,” said political analyst U Maung Maung Soe.

The UWSA wants to demonstrate its development, said former Lower House lawmaker U Ye Htun.

“Perhaps it hopes the military leaders and government will change their views about federalism and confederation when they see [Wa State]. They apparently want to give the message that autonomy has political benefits,” he said.

Article 56(f) of the Constitution grants the Wa a self-administered zone 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 with a government and administration.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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