UWSA to Opt Out of Ethnic Summit on Nationwide Ceasefire

By Khin Oo Tha 26 May 2015

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) will not attend an ethnic summit next month in Karen State’s Law Khee Lar, where ethnic leaders will gather to discuss the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Aung Myint, a spokesman for the UWSA, told The Irrawaddy that the group would not send representatives because the meeting would focus on the “internal affairs” of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), a coalition of 16 ethnic armed groups of which the UWSA is not a member.

The summit is scheduled for June 2-6 and members of the NCCT and other ethnic armed groups are expected to attend, deputy leader of the NCCT Kwe Htoo Win told The Irrawaddy. The meeting will focus on a draft nationwide ceasefire accord that NCCT members signed a statement in support of in March.

Aung Myint said the UWSA would not sign the proposed nationwide ceasefire agreement, but did plan to join the political dialogue that is slated to begin after the signing of the accord.

“We’ve had a ceasefire for 26 years. We’ve said that we have not gotten into a fight, not even a single fight, since then and we therefore don’t need to sign [a nationwide ceasefire accord],” Aung Myint said. “We’ve said in meetings with government authorities that we won’t sign the NCA and we will continue to say so in the future.”

Kwe Htoo Win said he had hoped the UWSA would attend the Law Khee Lar summit so that there would be an opportunity to take the broadest possible array of input on the draft nationwide ceasefire accord from Burma’s myriad ethnic armed groups.

The UWSA is Burma’s most powerful ethnic armed group, boasting a fighting force estimated at 20,000 soldiers and believed to have advanced military hardware including surface-to-air missiles.

The UWSA has rarely attended previous ethnic summits, citing its 26-year-old truce with the government. Earlier this month, however, the UWSA hosted an ethnic summit in its territorial capital Panghsang, inviting 12 ethnic armed groups including the KNU, which controls Law Khee Lar and the surrounding area.

At that meeting, which ended on May 6, the UWSA reiterated a call for the creation of a Wa State as part of a federal Burma. Currently, the Constitution recognizes a Wa “self-administered division,” affording it a degree of autonomy from Naypyidaw. The Wa Special Region consists of two noncontiguous territories in Shan State, one on the Chinese border and the other on the Thai border, with a population estimated at 600,000.

The UWSA demanded the self-administered state status for their place which is at present a self-administered division during the summit. As leaders of ethnic armed groups attending the summit agreed the UWSA’s demand in principle, UWSA have presented their demand to the government, but there is still no response,

The government has not yet responded to the UWSA demand, according to Aung Myint.

The Shan State Army-South also will not attend the meeting in Law Khee Lar, a spokesperson for the ethnic armed group told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

“We replied with a letter to the NCCT already that we will not join their meeting because we want to allow them to discuss their draft NCA, and we do not want to involve ourselves in their discussion as we are not a member [of the NCCT],” said Sai Hla.

He said that we are also worried about we do not want to involved in their case if they changed their decision for any case about NCA. Let them have freedom and discuss for their issues.

If the NCCT sign NCA with the Burmese government, the SSA-South said that they will see what the Burmese government tell them to do about sign NCA, which Sai Hla said that “We sign peace agreement already, and we do not want to sign one more time.”