The Irrawaddy

UWSA Plans Major Military Celebration in 2019 to Mark ‘30 Years of Peace’

United Wa State Army soldiers march in Pansang, in Wa territory in northeast Myanmar, in October 2016.

MON STATE — The United Wa State Army (UWSA), Myanmar’s largest ethnic armed group, has begun preparations for a large-scale military parade next year to mark the 30th anniversary of its ceasefire agreement with the central government and to display its continued military strength, according to a party spokesperson.

Nyi Rang, a Lashio-based spokesperson for the UWSA, told The Irrawaddy that the special celebration will be held on April 17 next year. He did not say exactly how many people would participate.

At its schools and military bases, the UWSA is training local youth to march with various types of weapons including rifles and artillery pieces, Nyi Rang said. Footage of these parade drills, including some featuring young women, could be seen on videos posted to his Facebook page.

Earlier this month, Nyi Rang told The Irrawaddy that the armed group would use about 500 youths for the military parade and for traditional cultural music and dance performances at the event.

It 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 said.

Discussing the reason for the 30th anniversary celebration on Friday, Nyi Rang told The Irrawaddy, “Our region has been peaceful for many years. We strongly want it to remain peaceful and to understand the value of peace; therefore, we celebrate it.”

The UWSA plans to invite State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to attend the event, according to the spokesman, who had no information on whether she would be able to do so. The group also plans to invite the leaders of other ethnic armed groups.

The organization intends to complete construction of a paved road network through the Wa region by the time of the celebration to show that the area has developed in the 30 years since the ceasefire.

“We are working hard to complete paved roads in the Wa region,” Nyi Rang said.

The UWSA has not yet signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). It serves as the chair of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) alliance, some of whose members are still fighting the Myanmar Army.

The Myanmar government has pressured the UWSA to sign the NCA, but it and other members of the FPNCC want the government to amend some parts of the agreement.

The Wa Army is estimated to number 30,000 troops and 10,000 auxiliary members, according to Myanmar Peace Monitor. It signed a ceasefire with the Myanmar military in 1989 after splitting from the Burmese Communist Party. Some Wa leaders are the subject of US arrest warrants and have been placed on international blacklists for involvement in drug trafficking.