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Military Misunderstood Meaning of Anniversary Parade, UWSA Says

By Lawi Weng 6 June 2019

The United Wa State Army has dismissed as a “misunderstanding” the Myanmar Army’s accusation that the ethnic armed group acted like a parallel government and a parallel army when it displayed its formidable military strength at a parade in Panghsang, the capital of Wa region, in April to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its ceasefire agreement with the government.

The group said the April commemoration “had the theme of ‘celebrating the 30th anniversary of [the] peaceful establishment’” of Wa State. “The celebration…on April 17…has no connotation of comparing with Tatmadaw,” the English-language statement reads.

The UWSA urged the Myanmar Army not to read too much into the military parade and said it was customary for the group to display its military hardware at important ceremonial occasions.

The ethnic armed organization celebrated the 30th anniversary of its ceasefire with the government with a military parade on April 17 in Panghsang, showing off military hardware including drones and anti-aircraft missiles.

The UWSA’s large show of force displeased the Myanmar Army. On May 31, military spokesman Major-General Soe Naing Oo told reporters in Naypyitaw that the UWSA had acted like a “parallel government” and “parallel army”, adding that the Tatmadaw had tolerated the event for the sake of peace in the country.

In its statement, the UWSA said that not only did it not regard the Myanmar Army and other armed groups as enemies—it saw them as “friends”.

Nyi Rang, a spokesperson for UWSA based in Lashio, northern Shan State, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that his organization appreciated the value of peace; this he said, was the reason for celebrating the 30th anniversary of the peace agreement.

“We did not intend to provoke anyone by holding the celebration,” Nyi Rang said.

“We believe they misunderstood our celebration. We have held similar celebrations in the past,” he added.

The UWSA is based in northern Shan State, near the Chinese border. Unlike other ethnic armed groups, the group has freedom to govern over its region, which has seen considerable development since it signed a ceasefire with the Myanmar government shortly after it was established after splitting from the Communist Party of Burma in 1989.

The UWSA’s ultimate goal is recognition as an autonomous state by the central government. It reaffirmed this stance in the statement, saying it would never secede from Union, and does not seek independence.

The UWSA has an estimated 30,000 troops and 10,000 auxiliary members, according to Myanmar Peace Monitor.

“We have a strong armed force, and this will be a strength for the country too,” Nyi Rang said.

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