Wa army evade Burmese troops

Sept 7, 2009 (DVB), Officials from Burma's largest ceasefire group have gone into hiding in eastern Burma due to increased tension in recent days between the group and the ruling military government.

Troops from the United Wa State Army (UWSA), based in the Wa region of Burma's northeastern Shan state, have been preparing for possible conflict with the Burmese army following its recent offensive against an allied ceasefire group.

A number of UWSA officials and business owners based in the Burmese border town of Tachilek and have reportedly gone into hiding after fellow officials faced threats of arrest.

A Tachilek resident told DVB that a number of UWSA officials and people in connection with them were arrested by authorities and evicted from the town in recent days.

"Previously, the Wa used to be influential in this region and a lot of people claimed to have a connection with them to gain special privileges," he said. "Now they are being chased down and deported."

The leader of the 30,000-strong UWSA is said to be close to Peng Jiasheng, whose Kokang ceasefire group last month was engaged in heavy fighting with the Burmese army.

The eruption of violence forced around 37,000 refugees across the border into Thailand. Peng Jiasheng is now reportedly in hiding somewhere in the Wa region.

Sein Kyi, deputy of Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN) said that senior Wa officials based in other border towns have also gone into hiding.

"The Wa are only keeping one or two officials , non-important personnel , in the offices in towns such as Tachilek, Keng Tung and Mong Hsat," said Sein Kyi.

"This is more like a precaution to prevent similar circumstances to the recent Kokang conflict where people closed to Peng Jiasheng were detained by government authorities."

He said the UWSA has been increasing troop numbers in southern Shan state, but the tension in the region was low compared the town of Panghsang where the group has its headquarters.

The Kokang group was reportedly joined by around 500 troops from the UWSA during fighting, which marked the end of a 20-year ceasefire with the Burmese government.

Reporting by Min Lwin

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