UWSA to Host Summit of Ethnic Armed Groups

By Kyaw Kha 20 February 2017

RANGOON — The United Wa State Army (UWSA) will host a summit of ethnic armed organizations starting Tuesday in Panghsang, the capital of the Wa administrative region.

This is the third summit organized by the UWSA, which functions as the armed wing of the United Wa State Party (UWSP). As in previous meetings, the Wa have invited to Panghsang mainly ethnic armed groups that are non-signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

“[Our leaders] said the summit would be held for three days, but I am not clear about the agenda,” UWSA spokesperson Zhao Xiaofu told The Irrawaddy.

Members of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups, which have been engaged in fighting with the Burma Army in northern Shan State since Nov. 20, were invited to the summit, Zhao Xiaofu said. The Northern Alliance includes the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA).

According to the invitations, the summit will discuss the stalled national peace process and preparations for political dialogue with the Union government, said TNLA spokesman Col Tar Bong Kyaw.

“We are prepared to discuss how our ethnic groups should break the impasse in the peace process and how to handle large-scale offensives by the Burma Army,” the colonel told The Irrawaddy.

The Mongla Group, or National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), was also invited.

“We’ll attend the summit. We received a letter from the UWSA on Feb. 17, and it said the NCA would be one of the topics of discussion,” NDAA spokesman U Kyi Myint told The Irrawaddy.

However, not all armed ethnic groups appeared to be on board with the planned summit.

“We won’t join the meeting as we were not invited,” said general secretary Khu Oo Reh of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a seven-member alliance of NCA non-signatories.

The UWSA is the most powerful ethnic armed group in Burma. It signed a truce with the government 28 years ago and has rejected recent suggestions that it should sign the NCA. The UWSA has taken the position that it has no need for the NCA as long as the existing ceasefire agreement is maintained.