Fearing War, People Leave Wa Region

By SAW YAN NAING Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some businessmen and others are leaving the Panghsang area, the headquarters of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), in fear of a war between the Burmese regime and the Wa army, according to sources in the area.

The businessmen, some of whom are ethnic Wa who carry out trade in Pang Long, Hopang and along the Sino-Burmese border, are reportedly returning to their homes for security reasons.

The United Wa State Army is the strong ethnic army in northern Burma.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, an observer who follows developments along the border, said he believed the fears over war were overblown, and that he doubted there would be an outbreak of hostilities. The UWSA, reportedly with about 30,000 troops, is the largest of the ethnic armed groups.

“It is just a threat. If they [the Burmese regime] wanted to fight, the war would have already happened,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw.

A government worker in the capital, Naypyidaw, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that some government staff in the Wa region were asked to return home this week. She said that she did not know the details of why the authorities ordered staff to leave Wa areas.

“We just collect the list of returning people and report to officials,” she said. “We were not told why they asked those in Wa areas to return home.”

Some non-governmental organization (NGO) staff were also reportedly asked to leave the Wa region, according to sources.

Many NGO and UN relief groups including the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and World Food Program (WFP) operate humanitarian assistance and development projects such as the poppy substitution program around Panghsang and in Wa regions on the Thai-Burmese border.

According to Burmese government sources, about 70,000 regime troops have reinforced existing troops in northern Shan State near areas controlled by the UWSA, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and ethnic Shan rebel bases.

Tension between the regime and cease-fire groups such as the UWSA and the KIA are high, because both groups have rejected the junta's border guard force order to transform their army and place it under the control of the junta.

Recently, the KIA moved important documents and office equipment from its headquarters in Laiza to safer locations.

Another hold-0ut cease-fire group, the New Mon State Party (NMSP), has also moved some departments and its stockpile of weapons to a new undisclosed base, after negotiations with the regime stalled.


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