The UWSA and the future

Major concerns for Shan State and the NLD-led Government

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From 26-28 March 2016, the United Wa State Party/United Wa State Army (UWSP/UWSA) hosted an Ethnic Armed Organizations leaders’ Summit at its headquarters in Panghsang, Wa Special Region. Present at the meeting were representatives from the Kachin Independence Organisation/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA), Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA), the Kachin based United League for Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA).

While ostensibly organised by the UWSA to discuss the negotiating position of those groups present that did not sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement on 15 October, in reality, a major focus of attention was the continuing conflict between the TNLA and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), better known as the SSA-South. Conflict between the two groups erupted in Shan State on 27 November 2015 in Namhkam and Mantong townships, near the China border. Reports from the Ta’ang claim that members of the SSA-S had crossed into their areas, which they designate as Kyaukme, Namhsan, Mantong and Namkham townships, without seeking ‘permission’ a claim the RCSS has denied (See EBO Background Paper No.6 – A Disturbing Portent – Inter-ethnic tensions and the peace process).

While there is little doubt that a main area of discussion at the meeting was focussed on how to work with the new government, the summit also elevated the inclusion of the UWSA in the peace process. The UWSA had, over the years, attempted to move away from ethnic politics in relation to armed ethnic groups frequently claiming it already has an agreement it is happy with. After being told that if they did not sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) they would not be granted an autonomous state, a senior UWSA official apparently replied,

We have made a statement that we will not sign the NCA, because throughout the past 25 years there was no fighting between us . . . We have been staying in peace. There is no point in signing the NCA.

However, over the last couple of years, with fissures in the ethnic alliance United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), political dialogue in January 2016, and the inauguration of the new government, it has recalibrated its position and appears now to be seeking a much greater role among those ethnic organisations that have yet to sign a ceasefire agreement.

The full paper is available here

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