Heavy troop presence at Wa meeting

The Wa army are yet to give a decision on the Burmese junta’s request to transform into a border guard force, despite the deadline expiring last week.

Around 100 troops accompanied United Wa State Army (UWSA) leader Bao Youxiang to a meeting last Friday with Burmese military chief Ye Myint, who had sought to pile pressure on the group to transform.

Despite several hours of talks, the meeting ended without an agreement being reached. The Burmese government has requested that the UWSA and a number of other ceasefire group change into a border militia and come under the control of Naypyidaw.

The deadline for groups to transform expired yesterday, but only two ceasefire armies have so far agreed to the proposal. The government is looking to consolidate alliances with ceasefire groups, many of whom it holds only tenuous truces with, prior to elections this year.

During the meeting, government representatives told the UWSA that a nine-point proposal lodged by the Wa in November last year would be considered, a source on the China-Burma border said. Both sides were unavailable for confirmation on this.

Ye Myint reiterated requests that the Wa army incorporate junta officials into its senior command, although this has been refused point-blank on a number of occasions.

The 30,000-strong UWSA, Burma’s largest ethnic army, took part in the government-led National Convention which drafted the 2008 constitution. The group previously said it agreed in principle with the border guard force plan.

Both the Burmese government and the UWSA have turned down a number of meetings proposed by their counterparts in recent months. Sources said the Friday meeting was helped along by China, who sent officials to the talks.

The Wa is made up of ethnic Chinese, and Beijing is rumoured to support the UWSA both financially and militarily.

The government’s border guard campaign was the trigger for conflict last August between Burmese troops and a Shan state-based ethnic Kokang army which forced some 37,000 people across the border into China.

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