Wa army anxious about border conflicts

Burma’s largest armed ethnic group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), has voiced “serious concern” about ongoing clashes along the country’s northern and eastern borders that have escalated in recent weeks.

The conflicts “resulted in a great number of civilian casualties and led to instability in the country”, a statement by the group said, noting that the Karen National Union (KNU), Shan State Army (SSA) and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) are all currently engaged in heavy fighting against the Burmese army.

It said the fighting resulted from offensives by the Burmese army against ethnic groups, contradicting President Thein Sein’s remarks that he would push for peace in the border regions.

The statement called for restraint from insurgent groups, whom it said should curtail their “excessive movements” inside government territory. It also urged Thein Sein to “control” the army, suggesting that regional military commanders may be acting with a degree of autonomy from the central government. It mirrors recent remarks made by the spokesperson of the KIA, who told DVB that Naypyidaw “couldn’t control their frontline soldiers”.

The UWSA is thought to have close to 30,000 troops in several blocks of territory around the edge of Shan state, which also hosts the SSA and several KIA battalions. It is one of the few ethnic armies whose ceasefire with the Burmese government remains intact.

The latest group to official signal end of decades-old truces is the KIA, which over the past 10 days have fought fierce battles with government troops in the country’s northern Kachin state.

The fighting has caused thousands to flee their homes, many of whom have crossed into China. China last week urged restraint from both sides.

The Wa army, whose refusal to become a government-controlled Border Guard Force has not been met with the same retaliation as that of the KIA and SSA, also warned that fighting could have serious long-term ramifications.

“The conflict is growing rapidly and is not conducive for long-term stability in the country or finding a solution to dispute with ethnic armies”, some of which have been battling the government for more than six decades.

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