Burma’s largest ethnic army marked their founding with dance performances and sporting competitions in the United Wa State Army’s Mongpawk township.
San Khun, deputy director of the UWSA’s External Relations Department said the group was marking 23 years of ‘peace building’ while a military parade is scheduled to take place today.
The UWSA formed in 1989 after the Communist Party of Burma disintegrated, which led to the creation of several armed ethnic groups in the country’s far north.
“April 17 is the day we revolted against the Communist Party of Burma,” said Sai Khun. “We have been hosting sports tournaments including basketball, track and field, and tug of war between different district teams. At night, we have traditional performances and dance competitions.”
The UWSA broke away from the CPB in May 1989 and signed a ceasefire agreement with the central government, which recognised the group’s territory in northern Shan state and its headquarters in Panghsang and Mongpawk.
UWSA officials and members will attend today’s military parade as well as representatives from its ally, the National Democratic Alliance Army. Government officials and representatives from the United Nations’ World Food Programme are set to attend the celebrations as well.
In 2009, after 20 years of tentative peace, skirmishes broke out between the UWSA and the previous military government due to a disagreement over the creation of the proposed Border Guard Force. The government called for ethnic armies to fall under the Burmese military’s jurisdiction and help police the country’s borderlands.
The resulting fighting caused tens of thousands of refuges to flood into China, which damaged relations between the generals and their northern neighbours.
On 26 December 2011, the UWSA and Thein Sein’s civilian government established a fresh, union-level ceasefire agreement after holding talks.