Despite the longstanding ceasefire, a political settlement is nowhere in sight.
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) and its political wing, the United Wa State Party (UWSP), will commemorate a 30-year-old peace deal with Burma’s armed forces next week at two locations in Shan State under Wa control.
Ceremonies to mark the occasion will be held April 15-17 at the UWSP/UWSA headquarters of Pangkham (Panghsan) in eastern Shan State and in Huayaw, the headquarters of the UWSA’s 171st military region in Mongton Township, southern Shan State.
Wa officials said they are still preparing for the ceremonies, which will include traditional dancing and military marches.
The larger ceremony is expected to take place in Pangkham, located near the border with China’s Yunnan Province in the Wa Self-Administered Division. A more low-key event will be held in Huayaw, according to local sources.
“Well, I have seen that they are preparing for it, but it will not be big like in Pangkham,” a Mongton resident told SHAN.
Aik Palate, a liaison officer for the UWSP/UWSA, said the gathering at the group’s headquarters would be open to all.
“We invite everyone, including the media. We will provide lunch, too,” he was quoted by the Kanbawza news service as saying.
Some local people said they were looking forward to attending the event, which will commemorate a ceasefire deal reached by the Burmese army and the UWSP/UWSA on April 17, 1989, not long after the Wa group broke away from the Communist Party of Burma.
“I have already registered to make the trip,” said a Lashio local who spoke to SHAN about his plans to attend the ceremony in Pangkham.
Despite the longstanding ceasefire agreement, a lasting peace has never been reached between the two sides, and the UWSA remains the most militarily powerful ethnic armed organization (EAO) in the country.
When the UWSP/UWSP signed the original agreement with the then ruling military junta thirty years ago, it was with the understanding that political talks would take place once a democratic government had assumed power.
However, efforts by both the military government and subsequent elected administrations have failed to win the confidence of the Wa.
Under the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, all EAOs, including the UWSA, were expected to form border guard forces or people’s militia forces under Burmese military command, but the UWSA rejected the plan.
The UWSA signed a state and union-level ceasefire agreement with the quasi-civilian government of former general Thein Sein on September 6, 2011, but later refused to join the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement process, and has since sought alternative avenues for political dialogue and negotiation.
According to the 2008 Constitution, Wa Self-Administered Division consists of six townships in northern Shan State. The UWSA’s 171st military region has been deployed along the Thai-Burma border area in Monghsat District in southern Shan state since 1991. In addition, the UWSA’s brigades 248, 518, 772, 775, and 778 are currently deployed on the Thai border area.