It was regrettable to have walked out of the Union Peace Conference yesterday but we felt discriminated against, said the leading delegate of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) mission to Naypyidaw on Friday.
The head of the UWSA delegation, Sam Lu, refuted government peace negotiator Khin Zaw Oo’s claim yesterday that there was a “misunderstanding”, and that it was due to a lack of communication on the part of the Wa delegates.
Sam Lu insisted that his delegation had kept in touch with the event organisers since they left their headquarters in Panghsang, eastern Shan State, but experienced inconveniences with accommodation when they arrived in Naypyidaw and also when acquiring pass cards for the forum.
He said the UWSA accepted the government’s invitation to the event because the group held positive aspirations for the peace-building efforts.
The delegation walked out of the conference on Thursday, cancelling a plan to present a paper – on UWSA policy and expectations on the upcoming political dialogue – claiming they were being discriminated against, following an incident where they were issued blue pass cards to the event, suggesting their status was only that of observers.
President’s Office Deputy Director Zaw Htay told the media on Thursday that it was all just a misunderstanding due to technical difficulties.
“We informed the state counsellor [Aung San Suu Kyi] about the hiccup today, and she suggested we clarify the matter. These types of technical difficulties happen from time to time, but we must not let it deter the efforts for national reconciliation,” said Zaw Htay.
Peace Conference preparatory committee member Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong insisted there was no discrimination against the Wa delegation.
“We officially invited them to the event,” he said. “We planned to accommodate all the ethnic armed group delegations at the [2013 SEA Games] athletes’ village, but the UWSA delegation decided to check themselves in to a hotel. So our staff had no idea where to find them to hand out the pass cards.
“When they showed up in the morning, we temporarily issued them observer passes, asserting that those would later be replaced with proper passes,” Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong continued. “But the staff at the event were probably unaware of this – they just saw the blue pass cards and must have treated the UWSA delegation as observers which led them into thinking they were being discriminated against.”
He said the Mongla armed group’s delegation was also temporarily issued observer passes under similar circumstances, and they later replaced those with participant passes.