Tuesday, January 6, 2009

UWSP Proposes Wa Autonomous Region

A United Wa State Army caravan in Shan State. (Photo: Thierry Falise)
The Irrawaddy News

The United Wa State Party (UWSP), an ethnic ceasefire group based in northern Burma, has proposed to the country’s military regime that territory under Wa control be designated a special autonomous region from the beginning of January 2009, according to political observers based in the area.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst based on the Sino-Burmese border, said that some Wa leaders had told him in recent telephone conversations that the party was now issuing documents stamped “Government of Wa State, Special Autonomous Region, Union of Myanmar.”

“This is a sign that they are preparing to establish a Wa autonomous region,” said Aung Kyaw Zwa.

However, observers said that the Burmese military still hasn’t responded to a proposal to rename the Wa territory the “Wa State Government Special Region.”

The Wa area has been known by the Burmese military as “Shan State Special Region 2” since the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the armed wing of the UWSP, entered into a ceasefire agreement with the regime in 1989.

In 2003, when the UWSP attended a junta-sponsored national constitutional convention, the party asked to be allowed to form a Wa State within Burma.

Wa political observers estimated that there are 20,000 UWSA soldiers currently deployed along Burma’s borders with Thailand and China, while an estimated 60,000 to 120,000 Wa villagers inhabit areas of lower Shan State.

Under the regime’s new constitution, six townships in two districts of Shan State—Hopang, Mongma, Panwai, Nahpan, Metman and Pangsang—comprise an area designated the Wa Self-Administered Division.

Khuensai Jaiyen, editor of the Shan Herald Agency for News, based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, said that the UWSP was using the constitution as the basis of its call for autonomy. “The UWSP is testing the Burmese military government’s new constitution to see if it is genuine or not. If it is, the regime has to allow the Wa to form an autonomous region,” he said.

The Wa will take part in the [junta’s 2010] election if the Burmese military recognizes their proposal,” said Mai Aik Phone, who is close to Wa leaders. “At the moment, they are in wait-and-see mode.”

Meanwhile, tensions between the regime and the UWSA have been mounting since Maj-Gen Kyaw Phyoe, the Burmese Army’s regional commander in the Golden Triangle area of Shan State, told the UWSA to disarm in December and join the upcoming election in 2010.

Wa leaders categorically rejected Maj-Gen Kyaw Phyoe’s proposal, according to sources.

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