Friday, April 24, 2009

Wa official: No answers to junta’s questions until ours are answered

Shan Herald Agency for News

A senior Wa official who declined to have his name divulged told the United Wa State Army (UWSA) has been under pressure by Naypyidaw for response to its demands to come under its wings but that the group has no reply for them until Naypyidaw have answers for its own demands.

“We asked them first and they never bothered to answer,” he said. “Now they want answers for their questions. That’s not fair.”

The official explained that the UWSA had attended the National Convention (1993-2008) and, together with its allies, had presented a joint set of proposals including one to place areas under their control along the Sino-Burma border under Naypyidaw’s direct supervision.

“We never received a reply for that and when the draft constitution came out, we found none of our demands were met,” he said. “Needless to say, we are against the constitution and we are against the upcoming elections. Only we are not putting out official statements like others.”

In January, the junta’s representative Lt-Gen Ye Myint came to Panghsang “to pick up from where he had left off last year,” he recounted. “He said we need not surrender but change our name to something like a frontier defense force and older leaders to set up parties to contest the elections. ‘We will even issue you new weapons which are of better quality. We will also assign educated officers from the Burma Army to assist your officers’. And when there was no response from us, he said, ‘There are reports a lot of mobilization is going on in here. Does it mean you are saying no to our offers?’ Again, our leaders refused to say anything. He went back empty-handed.”

Do the Wa have a course of action that they have chosen when the time comes? “We do,” he answered. “But until such time, we are saying nothing.”

He assured SHAN that the UWSA is “more united” and there is no discrimination among races.

What about Wei Xuegang, who joined them in 1989? “Wei is relatively a new comer,” he replied. “He thinks in terms of money. And we are aware that the Burma Army is trying to win him over. But I don’t think he will leave us. However, in case he does, the damage will be minimal.”

Wei Xuegang

(Just then, fire broke out on the western outskirts of Panghsang, and the interview came to an abrupt end, preventing SHAN from asking him to elaborate.)

Before that, the official had also talked about the pros and cons of the ceasefire. “On the whole, I think we have more gains than losses. It has been the first time in our modern day history that the people are enjoying the absence of war and conflict. They are also more educated and healthier,” he said. “Our only failure has been that we were so bent on economic matters we didn’t pay adequate attention to political matters.”

As for alliance with groups other than National Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), all of which together with the UWSA are members of the Peace and Democracy Front (PDF), he admitted that “a lot needed to be done on that. It was partly because of us. Most of them were demanding federalism and we had not felt ready to clash head on with the junta.

Also, when in 1999 we held a meeting with them, each had only presented its own policies and stand, but no one had proposed aims and objections that all could agree and work together.”

Since then times have changed, he added, also without elaboration.

The UWSA was formed following the mutiny in Panghsang against the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) on 17 April 1989. The Wa are notorious when it comes to drugs, but appealing to most groups fighting against the military regime when it comes to what is known as leverage.

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