Thursday, May 21, 2009

Southern Wa get fresh squeeze

(Shanland) -Its senior commanders are in Panghsang to deliberate on recent junta demand to get it transformed into a border security force, but that has not stopped the Burma Army from applying additional pressure on the United Wa State Army’s southern region along the Thai-Burma border, according to Wa and Shan sources on the border.

Brig Gen Kyaw Phyoe, Commander of the Kengtung-based Triangle Region Command, who is on a visit in Monghsat and Mongton-townships, opposite Chiangmai, was reported to have given two options on Monday, 18 May: “You can become a border security force. Otherwise, you have to go back to where you come from” meaning the Was’ original area along the Sino-Burma border.

(The ugly velvety snake) Brig Gen Kyaw Phyoe

The deadline for compliance is June. Kyaw Phyoe also demanded that the 171st move out from 3 sensitive positions without delay:

• Loi Ksarm Hsoong, the 6654ft high mountain that stands between Monghsat and Tachilek

• Kiu Hulom, the strategic mountain pass between Nakawngmu and Monghta in Mongton township

• Hwe Yao, just opposite Chiangmai’s Wiang Haeng district

“We are concerned every time our superiors come this way during their inspection trips,” he told the Wa officers, who replied that they were not authorized to say or do anything until they receive instructions “from above.”

Tensions between the Burma Army and the UWSA have been on the high since the end of May 2008, when Naypyidaw announced 92% of eligible voters had cast yes ballots for the junta-drawn draft constitution.

Notable incidents during the past year includes:

• Call for UWSA to surrender and move out of areas along the Thai-Burma border by August 2008, which the Wa had ignored

• Wa confiscation of a shipment of mortars and machine guns for the Burma Army liaison unit in Panghsang in January

• Increased Burma Army presence along the Wa border

• Census taking in the Wa areas that the UWSA has cooperated half-heartedly

• Non-attendance by high-ranking junta officers at the Wa ceremony marking the 20 year ‘peace construction’ on 17 April

• The Burma Army’s revised proposal to the Wa as well as other ceasefire groups to become border security forces under the Tatmadaw (Burmese Armed Forces) on 27 April

• The torture and killing of a Wa fighter on the Thai-Burma border on 4 May allegedly by junta troops

The Southern Wa area, known as the 171st Military Region, stretches from Mongton township to Tachilek township opposite Maehongson, Chiangmai and Chiangrai. It is under the nominal command of Wei Xuegang, wanted by both US and Thai drug control officials.

“The Burmese still hopes to persuade Wei to leave the UWSA,” remarked a veteran border watcher. “It will certainly be quite a coup if the ploy works.”

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