A Chinese language TV channel broadcasting the 23th Anniversary of Wa peace building in 2012 April
Ethnic Wa’s demand to establish an autonomous state in Myanmar can cause confusion, political analysts say.
Shaung Milyan, vice-chairperson of United Wa State Army (UWSA), demanded that the Wa self-administered division be upgraded into a state during a meeting with the government’s union level peace working committee in Panhsang of Wa Special Region (2), Shan State, on May 10.
UWSA, the largest of the armed ethnic groups in Myanmar, has reiterated the demand, which it has made since 2012.
Regarding the Wa’s demand, one Lower House MP said granting it without thorough analysis could make the country’s situation more confusing.
“In my opinion, it is too early to satisfy their demand. This issue must be discussed in a close-door meeting in Parliament. Are those living in the Wa region are genuine Wa nationals? It is necessary to monitor whether there are manipulators behind the demand. If it is granted without analysis, there will be confusion,” MP Kyi Myint said.
Some fear that the upgrading of the Wa self-administered division to a state might change the union pattern of Myanmar as the administrative board of the Wa region uses Chinese as an official language and only 30% of the population use Bamar language and other ethnic dialects.
Sao Aung Myint from Shan Descendent Force said: “The issue is not possible yet although they have the right to demand. Our country is multi-national. Various ethnic groups live in Shan State. If the Wa is allowed to form an autonomous state, the whole union will be in a state of fragility.”
Shan National League for Democracy’s chairman said the government was facing confusion though he did not want to make comments on the demand of UWSA, which is reportedly overwhelmed by Chinese people and the Chinese lifestyle.
“The situation is confusing. It is better to ask the public attitude. I said the public stance should be sought when the Wa region was granted to found a self-administered division. But the then government didn’t,” chairman Khun Tun Oo said.
UWSA with more than 30,000 troops and 10,000 auxiliary troops is serving under the United Wa State Party (UWSP) and it is mainly active in the areas of Panhsai, Mongmaw, Panwai, Narphan, Mongpauk, Mongyan and Hopan of Shan State.
On April 29, UWSA dismissed a report from Janes Intelligence that it acquired armed helicopters from China. It was also denied by the Chinese government.
The Chinese embassy in Myanmar strongly denounced the report on May 7 while UWSP officials gave a clarification during the meeting with the government’s peace working group on May 10. But their denial came long after the release of that report.
According to the UWSA’s clarification, it purchased a helicopter, a Foker and a vessel from Thailand. But they have no engines and are to be used in a local natural garden, it explained.
However, questions have arisen over the links between the UWSA and China.
In its press release issued on May 7, the Chinese embassy said China is committed to joining hands with the Myanmar side to uphold the peace and stability of the border areas. This, however, contradicts the Wa’s demand to found an autonomous state.
Political analyst Dr Yan Myo Thein said: “China’s central government seemed to have no direct links with UWSA. Yet, I think there are more or less cooperation between it and the Chinese provincial governments. Here, there should be transparency in cooperation between the UWSA and Chinese provincial governments. Only then will suspicion over Sino-Myanmar relations reduce.”
Reports erupted that UWSA has links with Chinese intelligence agencies; Chinese military officials are training the Wa troops and in other words, they are an army formed by China in Myanmar, Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner, an expert of the background history of the UWSA, told the Eleven Media Group last October.
Dr Yan Myo Thein also said: “Let alone the demand of the state level, Parliament should reconsider the designation of the Wa region as a self-administered division. It is also necessary to re-access the rights and powers vested in regional governments and self-administered zones and divisions.”
The Myanmar government cannot take a census in the Wa self-administered division in current condition. Having an area of 17000 square feet, the Wa division has approximately a population of 600,000. The division is divided into Northern and Southern Wa regions. Seventy per cent of the total population speaks Chinese, using China currency Yuan. The division even can access Chinese language TV channels within the region.
Their main businesses are gems, minerals, fuels, electronics, communication equipment, water purifiers, and shopping malls. Hompan is the prominent company of the Wa people.
The UWSP is derived from the Burma Communist Party (BCP). The UWSP took the Panhsan area, where the BCP headquarters was located, establishing the Wa community.
The Wa community has already agreed to live peacefully and have relations with the Myanmar military. They attended the National Convention in 1993, making negotiations with other ethnic armed groups.
Although they announced the termination of opium cultivation in 2005, the international community still believes that they are producing opium.
Their armed forces have been increasing since 2009 when they have some conflicts with the Myanmar military over the border guard force issues.