Ceasefire groups divided
Major armed groups that had concluded ceasefire pacts with the Burma Army are inevitably divided between “doves” and “hawks,” as pressure to disarm and contest 2010 elections mounts, according to sources inside Shan State.
10 October 2008
Within the United Wa State Army (UWSA), considered the strongest ceasefire group, the division appears to be between pro-Bao Youxiang and pro-Wei Xuegang factions.
While Wei, who commands most of the brigades along the Thai-Burma border, and his associates have voiced their support for the majority’s decision to resist pressure by the Burma Army to surrender at meetings, they are reported to be privately making their own plans. “The Burma Army has offered to buy them off, which means giving them business concessions,” said a source close to the UWSA in Mongton, opposite Chiangmai. “They think they should accept the offer and, if possible, retain their arms as pro-junta militias.”
Members of the Wei faction were formerly ex-Kuomintang officers and men. The Kuomintang was driven out of China following its defeat in 1949. Most of them are scattered out in Shan State, Thailand and Laos.
Meanwhile, followers of the ailing Wa leader Bao Youxiang are making preparations for “the eventual showdown” with the Burma Army. “Bao may retire,” said an insider source, “but he has placed high hopes in the hard-liners led by his nephew Ta Long. Many officers at present have been attending combat courses organized by Panghsang (Wa capital on the Chinese border).”
Ta Long, 41, a native of Kunma, is officially the mayor of Namteuk (also written Namtit), north of Panghsang. “I didn’t meet Wei Hsaitang (a hardline officer who was released from prison last year and later reported to have been transferred to Namteuk),” said the source. “But he is believed to be Ta Long’s chief counsel in military matters.”
Similar reports have been received by SHAN with regards to the Hsengkeow-based Shan State Army (SSA) North and Mongla-based National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS).
A recent report says the SSA-North would be setting up a political party and had already consulted Maj-Gen Aung Than Tut, Commander of the Lashio-based Northern Region Command of the Burma Army. The group has declined either to confirm or deny it.
“Anything can happen before 2010,” said a long-time border watcher, “and I won’t be the first to make any predictions until and after the electoral law has been announced.”
The electoral law is due to be promulgated by the end of the year, according to some sources. In the mean time, political campaigns by pro-junta groups have already begun following approval by Naypyidaw of its draft constitution in May.