The United Wa State Army (UWSA) will not have a chance to demand an autonomous state if they do not sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA), according to a senior Burma government official on Saturday in Kengtung, eastern Shan State.
Representing the Ministry of Defense, Lt. Gen. Yar Pyae said in a meeting with delegations from two ethnic armed groups—the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA)—that if the UWSA does not sign the NCA alongside other ethnic armed groups during the first week of October, they will be abandoned from political talks as well as lose the chance to demand a self-administrated state.
The meeting was led by the government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC) representatives, U Aung Min and U Thein Zaw to discuss the possibility of signing the NCA, a cumulative step in Burma’s current peace process, which was launched in 2013.
According to a S.H.A.N. phone interview on Saturday with a senior UWSA official, the armed group feels it is not necessary to add their signature to the ceasefire agreement, but are disappointed that this position eliminates the opportunity to participate in national political dialogue.
“We have made a statement that we will not sign the NCA, because throughout the past 25 years there was no fighting between us,” he said of UWSA and the Burma Army, referring to a 1989 ceasefire that the group signed with Burma’s previous government, known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). “We have been staying in peace. There is no point in signing the NCA.”
At approximately 20,000 strong, UWSA is one of the largest armed groups in Shan State. The UWSA-controlled area consists of two territories: one in Shan State’s north, on the Sino-Burma border, and the other in the east, on the Thai-Burma border. The demand for recognition of an autonomous Wa state in this region dates back to the 1989 deal with the government.
On September 9, the commander of Triangle Region Command, the Burma Army division located in eastern Shan State, held a meeting about the NCA where they urged the UWSA to participate in signing the agreement.
But the UWSA’s position has been known since September 4, when they released an official statement confirming that if the NCA was perceived as negatively affecting the rights of the Wa people, they would not sign it, and would only join the peace process for political talks.
There are more than 20 ethnic armed forces in Burma, however, the government is currently allowing only 15 of these groups to sign the NCA. The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Arakan Army (AA) are currently excluded from the ceasefire agreement.
By SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)