Sunday, July 21, 2024

UWSA’s Potential as a Game Changer in Myanmar’s Revolutionary Conflict

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The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has maintained a neutral position in the ongoing revolutionary conflict against the Myanmar military junta since its seizure of power through a coup d’état in February 2021. However, in a recent statement issued on the occasion of its 35th founding anniversary, the United Wa State Party (UWSP), the political wing of the UWSA, emphasized the need for unity in the collective effort against the military junta.

According to reports, a military and political analyst, U Than Soe Naing, notes that the inclusion of the “Wa” group, if it were to join the Spring Revolution, could significantly bolster the momentum in the fight to overthrow the military dictatorship, especially considering the notable overtures made by the National Unity Government (NUG).

Critics observe that the current opposition, composed of ethnic armed organizations and People Defense Forces (PDFs), currently holds a strategic advantage. However, the victory of the opposition against the Myanmar Army, an institution with a longstanding presence and a personnel strength ranging from 300,000 to 400,000, remains uncertain given the military’s historical governance of the country spanning over six decades.

Many critics, however, tend to think the opposition has a chance of defeating the military junta. This is because the military junta faces multiple challenges across the country: in the east, Karenni and Karen forces attack; in the west, the Arakan Army (AA) and the Chin National Front (CNF) attack; in the center, various areas have been seized by the PDFs; and in the north and northeast, the Kachin Independent Army (KIA) and the Three Brotherhood Alliance (TBA) attack.

Moreover, the border areas, which are now controlled by the EAOs and PDFs affiliated with the NUG and supported by neighboring countries, such as China, create logistical challenges for the military junta in securing weaponry. This is particularly impactful as the military’s primary equipment suppliers, Russia, and North Korea, face restricted access due to opposition control over border areas. Additionally, the personnel of the military junta dwindled due to casualties, injuries, and surrenders to the resistance forces.

Despite the opposition groups seeming to gain momentum, the involvement of the Wa group could make a positive change in overthrowing the military dictatorship. The Wa group is the largest EAO in Myanmar with an estimated 20,000 – 30,000 troops. It is the chair of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), a bloc comprising various EAOs fighting against the military, including AA, KIA, MNDAA, TNLA as well as National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), and Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N). This bloc has over 70,000 active personnel equipped with modern weaponry.

China provides major political and economic assistance to the UWSA as they share a long history, extending back to its leaders’ service in the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in the 1950s. Thus, the Was, with its advanced Chinese equipment, including armored personnel vehicles, surface-to-surface rockets, armed drones, anti-aircraft cannons, and shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, the UWSA operates independently with its own administrative system.

It is thus to say that the involvement of key players like the UWSA has the potential to change cooperative efforts to eliminate Myanmar’s military dominance in politics. The inclusion of the UWSA has the potential not only to change the strategic landscape but also to act as an important catalyst for shifting political dynamics in Myanmar.

However, for the time being, it is hard to say whether the UWSA will work together with opposition groups to overthrow the military regime or retain its neutrality.

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