The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has denied claims by a member of the government’s Peace Commission that it planned to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and accused him of trying to mislead the public.
The UWSA issued a statement on March 15 saying that contrary to comments by U Aung Soe, it had never accepted the nationwide ceasefire, and was not ready to sign the NCA. This followed comments by U Aung Soe reported in some Burmese-language media that the UWSA had agreed to sign the ceasefire agreement.
“His statement was specious and we suspect it was made to deliberately confuse the public. This was very irresponsible and confuses fact and fiction. It has caused unnecessary disruption to the peace process in Myanmar, which already has problems,” the UWSA said.
Democratic Voice of Burma and the Yangon-based News Watch both reported that the UWSA had agreed to sign the NCA, based on an interview with U Aung Soe on March 14. However, when other news media followed up on the story, it emerged that his claim was untrue. The actual story was that the government Peace Commission and the UWSA were meeting as part of the regular peace process.
The UWSA, NLD-led government and Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) have differing views on how to proceed over the NCA. The UWSA was not involved in discussing the draft of the agreement. Nonetheless, both the former and current governments have pressured the group to sign.
The UWSA wants to sign alongside other ethnic armed groups who are fellow members of the Northern Alliance: the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Arakan Army (AA) and Shan State Progress Party.
“A dialogue is needed to overcome this major difference of views. The three parties must be involved, and the channels of communication between the three must also be unimpeded, but this dialogue does not mean that the UWSA has accepted the NCA,” the statement reads.
The UWSA has said it would sign the NCA only if the government and military allowed amendments to parts of the agreement relating specifically to its region. The current draft NCA is not suitable, according to the UWSA, which seeks an autonomous region that would be different in nature from those run by other ethnic armed groups.
The UWSA remains firmly opposed to some of the terms of the NCA.
“Making efforts to promote peace in Myanmar is the consistent position of Wa State. Force and war are not the priority options for Wa State,” the ethnic armed group said.
The UWSA signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in 1989, and has not engaged in fighting with the Tatmadaw since then. The region has experienced some development thanks to border trade with China. The UWSA has at least 40,000 troops, making it the largest ethnic armed group in Myanmar.
The UWSA has tried to lead the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultation Committee (FNPCC) into peace talks with the government and Tatmadaw, but the latter refuses to include the TNLA, AA, and MNDAA in the peace process. Fighting between the Tatmadaw and Northern Alliance members has erupted in areas near UWSA-controlled parts of northern Shan State. This has caused concern within the UWSA that the Tatmadaw will attack it as well.
Commenting on the UWSA’s response to U Aung Soe, some Burmese peace process observers said it could be intended to placate the other ethnic armed groups in the alliance. The Northern Alliance members have agreed that they will only sign the NCA as a block.