Burma’s largest ethnic army could be declared ‘unlawful’ by the ruling junta if it continues to refuse to transform into a border guard force.
A United Wa State Army (UWSA) official told DVB that the Burmese government had threatened to use force against the group, but added that the Wa would refuse to bow to its demands.
The conflict stems from the junta’s proposal to assimilate ethnic armies into the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) army command by designating them as Border Guard Forces (BGF). Under the proposal SPDC commanders would have control of BGF forces at battalion level.
Although the initial deadline for transformation expired at the end of last month, it has been extended until 10 March. During a meeting between former intelligence chief Ye Myint and UWSA leader Bao Youxiang, the SPDC reportedly warned that if they continued to refuse, they would face military action.
The meeting however ended with neither side able to agree on the issues of sovereignty pertaining to the border guard force and UWSA territory.
The UWSA had offered a nine-point counter proposal to the government last year, but the Wa official said this wasn’t accepted.
“Recently, we reduced our demands down to two and we are not getting any response either, so have prepared for the worst,” he said.
The last meeting between the two sides had preceded by several rejections of proposed talks in the town of Lashio, in Wa-controlled territory of Burma’s northeastern Shan state.
Bao Youxiang is said to be unwell, but there are also suggestions that he was concerned he would be assassinated if he met with the junta. On attending the 26 February meeting the Wa leader reportedly brought around 100 soldiers with him for security.
The former joint general secretary of the National Democratic Front (NDF) and Wa ally, known only as Mr Long, confirmed the escalating tension and told DVB that the Wa were ready to fight. “Now it is not only about defence,” he said.
Meanwhile, tension is also rising between the Burmese army and the Shan-based National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) after its chairman, Le Min Chin, failed to show for a meeting with Ye Myint on 25 February.
The NDAA’s secretary, Min Ein, was shot dead by unknown gunmen on 27 January.
Meanwhile, Kachin nationals have said that the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), which has also refused the border guard proposal, is stepping up military preparations on mountains and hills in their region.
A Wa official in Shan state’s Pangshang said that the Burmese junta wishes to clean off ceasefire groups along the China-Burma border by use of military force however, although this has not been approved by China.
Additional reporting by Joseph Allchin