By Aung Zeya
A communique was issued after the Fourth Ethnic Leaders’ conference held at Pang Seng in Wa Autonomous Region from May 1-6. Much has been expected on the outcome of that particular conference by the public as a final step for nation-wide cease fire and the most probable follow-up of peace. Yet, to the dismay of all, the search for peaceful solution by the 12 ethnic armed groups reached nowhere and actually ended up in a demand for a Wa state by the UWSA.
In fact, the aim of that particular conference was to review the draft of Nation wide Ceasefire Agreement-NCA, worked out together by Union Peace Working Committee- UPWC and Nation-wide Ceasefire Co-ordination Team-NCCT and to listen to the ideas and advice of individual armed groups. Looking back at the whole peace process the UWSA- United Wa Solidarity Party was never involved in the discussion of the draft cease fire agreement and occasionally attended these meetings as an observer.
In this matter, it is quite questionable why the UWSA, which has never involved in the United Nationalities Federal Council-UNFC top level meetings, holds the conference of the final stage of the nation-wide cease fire agreement at their headquarters in Pang Seng.
It has been alarmingly reported that U Bao Yu Xiang, Commander-in-Chief of the United Wa Solidarity Army-UWSA, demanded the attending ethnic armed group leaders to recommend a notion to upgrade the Wa Autonomous Region into a Wa State. As a result, it has been reported that there were heated debates pointed out by the ethnic armed group leaders that the whole public of the Union of Myanmar and even the oppositions would never accept that notion and that this could be the start of the disintegration of the Union.
It came as a surprise that in the paragraph 4 of the communique it was written that “Myanmar Army’s violation of human rights and harsh treatment on the people in regions of Ethnic minorities, especially in war zones is strongly condemned and it is demanded that it must be controlled so that these matters do not happen again” and which is quite the opposite of the reality in accusing the Myanmar Tatmadaw in these matters. The Myanmar Armed Forces which has been protecting the state and its citizens, and would never have done such acts and the accusing party–the Wa organization-also has to consider how much of its accusations are lawful and true in the first place.
The Wa organization was formed during the waning years of the Burma Communist Party- BCP on April 17, 1989 after occupying the headquarters of the BCP at Pang Seng. At first they declared that they would make peace with the government and live in harmony with the Tatmadaw, at the same time striving to be stronger by doing legal as well as illegal businesses.
The overall strength of the Wa army was just thousands when they revolted against the BCP.
The troop strength expanded after extensive manufacturing and distribution of illicit drugs and forced recruitment of school-age children, forced conscription of the locals- against all international and national legal norms- which is a clear violation of the human rights by the Wa leaders.
The region under the control of the UWSA and Mong La Army have been quite notorious since late seventeenth century as major opium production region to a world record and it still holds the title as the biggest manufacturing area of opium and Amphetamines.
Even the leader of the UWSA U Bao Yu Xiang and 21 others have rewards in millions of US dollars on their heads by US Drug Enforcement Agency as drug kingpins.
Of all the menace to mankind, illicit drugs are the greatest and most lethal to all and that’s why all kinds of drugs are deemed as common enemy by the world body. Drug growing and abuse were legacies of the colonial rule with the worst impact morally, socially, economically, and militarily. Consequently, countless lives of the promising youth were ruined by the illicit drugs. The Union of Myanmar in conjunction with other international bodies has been fighting drugs as a national responsibility. Tatmadaw has been involved in the eradication of illicit drugs and regards it as the protection of national interest.
Yet, in some remote areas many kinds of drugs have been grown, manufactured and distributed by some parties who care just their own selfish interests. The Autonomous region of Wa became the largest region of manufacturing illicit drugs.
When hearing the word “UWSA”, it is seen associated with all kinds of drugs by the world. If one tries to Google or yahoo or use any search engine UWSA could be seen associated with all kinds of drug related activities. UWSA leaders are still on the most wanted list by the US police with million dollar rewards.
It is quite evident that the Wa leaders who are infamous for their drug related activities try their best to cover their true identity with the Pang Seng Conference.
On the account of falsely accusing the Myanmar Armed forces members of human rights violation and harsh treatment of the minorities, it is a fact that all armed forces members have to follow the military law and discipline as well as the civilian laws and the international laws also.
Law of Armed conflict-LOAC and International Humanity Law-IHL defined that humanity means prohibition of using weapons and ammunitions as well as military tactics so as to avoid unnecessary sufferings towards the non-combatant civilians. In war zones, Tatmadaw has always acted in accordance with these laws, by transporting non-combatants to safe areas, screening and arresting armed insurgents in the disguise of civilian non-combatants, counter attacking insurgents who did harm the national sovereignty and the livelihood of the populace. Thus, it is quite obvious that there can be no acts of human rights violations as accused and speculated.
The UWSA neither accept the formation of Border Guard Forces nor allow the 2010 nation-wide election to be held in their autonomous region area. Even for this conference the Government of the Union of Myanmar informed them not to invite the insurgent groups who has been fighting the Tatmadaw which they ignore and invited those groups.
In careful analysis of the behavior of the UWSA, it is quite evident that they are out of Central government control and with the expansion of their troop strength, antagonist characteristics became obvious. It can be concluded that whatever they have been saying about non-secession from the union their true intention is the opposite. It is plainly simple that they have been on the path towards secession from the union for the whole time.
At the present time the Wa Autonomous region is out of central government control with the capital town of Pang Seng full of casinos, massage parlours and hotels.
Civil administrative positions are being taken by ethnic Chinese and local culture is being swallowed and overwhelmed by the Chinese one. Official language is Chinese and circulating money is Chinese Renminbi (Yuan) while local dialect and literature are also becoming Chinese.
Now is the time to monitor if they all are real ethnic Wa tribesmen or if they are (Chinese) people pretending to be (Was) and trying to use Wa image for their own selfish interests. UWSA is known to be running weapons manufacturing factories and also in possession of anti aircraft missile. News reports also indicated that they are in the possession of helicopters and armoured cars with the help of their friends across the border. Their army is reported to have a force of 30,000 troops with another 10,000 in reserve.
The Government allowed the Wa’s an autonomous region due to their population base. Getting stronger everyday with drug money and other illegal businesses, they now have the confidence to challenge the central government by demanding for a state. With this last demand it cannot be wrong to assume that UWSA is in total defiance of the government of the Union of Myanmar and willing to engage a military challenge.
Reports have emerged about thousands of tons of illicit drugs trapped in Kokang rebel area jointly owned by UWSA, MNDAA and NDAA because of the fightings in Laukkai where government forces are launching military operations against Kokang Rebels lead by Peng Jiasheng. Earlier expected as a quick victory by Peng Jiasheng, the war expenses rose as the battles dragged on and mounting to USD 1.5 billion, up until now.
Recent reports indicated that to pay for medical expenses for wounded soldiers getting treatment at Namsam hospital in China and for compensation of the killed mercenaries, it became very urgent for Peng Jiasheng to sell the trapped drugs and Wa organizations have already agreed to take responsibility of selling-out the drugs. The Myanmar public has already realized that there cannot be smoke without fire and that this news is highly probable. Ethnic Leaders’ Pang Seng conference could also be a mask for (selling out and distribution) of the trapped drugs.
While all the public from all walks of life in Myanmar are happy and rejoiced for the near hope of a Nation-wide ceasefire agreement after the draft of Nation-wide Ceasefire Agreement-NCA, worked out together by Union Peace Working Committee UPWC and Nationwide Ceasefire Co-ordination Team-NCCT was signed, the erroneous behaviour of the UWSA under the pretext of the Pang Seng conference is in total contrast to the peace process of the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
By Aung Zeya