UWSA Leader Vows to Continue Armed for Wa Autonomy
“Until we reach our goal, we will hold a democracy flag in one hand and a weapons flag in the other,” said Pao Youxiang, commander of Burma’s largest ethnic army.
By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Speaking at a ceremony today to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Pao Youxiang, commander-in-chief of the UWSA and chairman of its political wing the UWSP, said the group would never abandon its goal of Wa autonomous State.
“What we are demanding is a Wa self-administered state, and we will continue fighting until we get it,” he said before an audience of visiting dignitaries, including government officials.
“Until we reach our goal, we will hold a democracy flag in one hand and a weapons flag in the other,” he added, signaling that the group had no intention of laying down arms, a key demand of Burma’s armed forces as a condition for lasting peace.
However, he also reiterated that the UWSA is not seeking full independence from Burma.
“Wa State is a part of the Union of Burma and cannot be cut out of the union. We won’t demand an independent Wa state or ask for secession.”
He also called on all Wa people to march together to achieve economic, democratic and cultural development.
State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been invited to the ceremony but declined to attend, sent a goodwill message to the leaders of the UWSA on the occasion of today’s anniversary.
In the message, which was read by Labor, Immigration and Population Minister Thein Swe, she also urged the UWSA to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and participate in political dialogue and peace negotiations.
In addition to other government officials, the gathering was also attended by leaders of other ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), including both NCA signatories and non-signatories, and China’s special envoy on Asian affairs, Sun Guoxiang.
Political analyst Maung Maung Soe said that the UWSA invited government representatives and leaders of other EAOs to their headquarters at Pangkham (Panghsan) to show them how much they had accomplished over the past three decades.
“They want them to know that they have the capacity to build their own state. They have tin mines, gold mines, hundreds of thousands of acres of rubber plantations, and other natural resources. They also have a constitution. They openly show these things,” he said.
“What they want to show is that they are trying to get a Wa State and they are qualified to have a Wa State,” Maung Maung Soe told NMG, adding that foreign diplomats and journalists had also been invited, but were blocked from traveling to the area by the government.
Around 20,000 people are believed to have attended the day’s proceedings.
Khin Nyunt, the former prime minister and ex-military intelligence chief who played a role in getting the UWSA to sign a ceasefire agreement with Burma’s former military junta, also sent a goodwill letter wishing for development and long-lasting peace in the Wa region.
Unlike most ethnic areas in Burma, including regions covered by ceasefire agreements, there have been no clashes with government troops in Wa-controlled territory since the UWSA was formed on April 17, 1989, following the collapse of the Communist Party of Burma.
The UWSA has an estimated 35,000 regular soldiers, making it the strongest ethnic army in the country.