Ceasefire armies play it close to their chests
As Naypyidaw takes turns playing good and bad guy roles towards the major rebel armies that have maintained uneasy truces with it since 1989, the latter are also understandably on the quiet about their future plans, according to reports coming to the border.
21 October 2008
“What would you do in our place?” asked a Shan ceasefire officer rhetorically. “Lay down your cards on the table to make it easy for the generals to move against us? No, no. We simply cannot afford to play that way.”
All the groups interviewed by SHAN have conceded that junta commanders have been now and again urging them “to exchange arms for peace,” a favorite junta term for surrender. “However, we had a visit by one of the top officers from Naypyidaw lately,” said a highly placed ceasefire source who requested anonymity. “He had assured us that there would be no question of surrender in dealing with us.”
Most of the groups including the United Wa State Army (UWSA) are reportedly against the demand to give up their arms until an acceptable political settlement is reached.
On the other hand, some have expressed interest in forming political parties to contest in the 2010 elections without surrendering their arms. “That way we will no longer be fighting them from the outside but inside,” a prominent leader who is living in southern Shan State told SHAN. “It’s time we came in from the cold.”
Some groups have their own political parties, dormant since 1989:
- Shan State Army (SSA) “North”- Shan State Progress Party (SSPP)
- United Wa State Army (UWSA) – United Wa State Party (UWSP)
the same time, none of the groups are sure whether their candidates would be
accepted by Naypyidaw as Members of Parliament once they have been elected by
“We hope the military is content with what it already has: once-quarter representation in the national assembly and one-third representation in the state assemblies,” hopes one.
According to some analysts, the non-Burman ethnic parties stand a fair chance in the elections, compared to the National League for Democracy (NLD) or any proxy parties it has been urged by some supporters both at home and abroad to set up. It had won more than 80% of the seats nationwide in the 1990 elections.
Meanwhile, the groups have also been cautioned not to relax their vigilance, citing one of the groups that has recently been forcibly disarmed by the Army.
The Shan State Nationalities People’s Liberation Organization (SNPLO), also locally known as the Red PaO, that concluded a truce pact with Rangoon in 1994, was forced to surrender last August, despite assurances by junta commanders that the Burma Army entertained no such plans a month earlier.
At least the UWSA appears to be taking no chances. Since July, its squad leaders up to company commanders have been engaging in military exercises, as discovered by Brig-Gen Way Lin, Deputy Commander of the Kengtung-based Triangle Region Command on 19 October when he visited Mongphen and Mongpawk, south of the Wa capital Panghsang, according to sources in Kengtung.