The Irrawaddy

Youth Summoned For Wa State Army ‘Peace Event’

UWSA soldiers participate in a military parade in Mai-Tong Township, Eastern Shan State in July 2017.

YANGON — The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has summoned youths to perform at an upcoming event to mark the 30th anniversary of the signing of a truce with the union government.

Nyi Rang, the UWSA’s liaison officer in Lashio Township, Shan State, said the armed group would use about 500 youths for a military parade and for traditional cultural music and dance performances at the event.

The armed group will select 40 to 50 youths, both male and female, aged around 20, from each of the 10 townships under its control for the event, he told The Irrawaddy.

April 17 next year marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of a truce between the UWSA and the government.

The youths will be camped for about nine months to undergo the necessary training to perform at the event, said Nyi Rang.

According to Article 56 (f) of the Constitution, six townships in Shan — Hopang, Mongmao, Panwai, Namphan, Metman and Pangsang (Pankham) — constitute the Wa Special Region.

Besides those townships, the UWSA has since July also summoned participants for the event from four other townships — Mongton, Monghpyak, Longtan and Hothauk.

According to Nyi Rang, applications are welcome from members of all 17 tribes living in the self-administered Wa Special Region and are not limited to those from the Wa ethnic group.

However, his statement differs from information shared by lawmaker U San Win Aung, who represents Mongton Township in the Shan State Parliament.

“According to an external relations officer of Wa [Special Region], the group isn’t summoning people of other tribes. There are Shan, Lahu and Lisu people living in our township. They can’t touch them. The group only invites applications from its own people,” said U San Win Aung.

Shan, Lahu, Lisu and Wa people live in separate villages in Mongton Township. Service in the UWSA is compulsory for Wa men and women when they reach the age of 18 for three years.

Some young people have already fled to China upon hearing reports of the UWSA’s plan to recruit youths for the anniversary event.

“They’ve come and taken my daughter. I’m worried that she will be asked to serve as a permanent soldier. I dared not tell them not to take her. I was afraid because they were armed,” said a Monghpyak resident on condition of anonymity.

Nyi Rang denied the claims of conscription and said the UWSA only gathers those who are willing to take part in the event. He said the group would send them back to their homes afterward and that it was up to the individuals to join the armed group permanently.

The UWSA said it has verbally invited State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to attend the event in Panghsang, where its headquarters are located.

The UWSA split from the Communist Party of Burma in April 1989 and signed a ceasefire with the then-military government’s State Law and Order Restoration Council on April 17, 1989. The truce turns 30 years old next year.