06/06/2019, 19.49
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Naga and Wa rebels vs. the army

According to experts, the former are no threat to government troops, as they are too few and not prone to armed struggle. The latter, on the other hand, play a central role in Myanmar’s peace process. They are self-governing and have close ties with Beijing.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), which operates on the border between Myanmar and India, said that they will not sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Myanmar government.

Joseph Lam Kan, NSCN-K’s public relations officer, made the announcement yesterday. However, although the group swore to “fight until their last breath," experts believe their role in the country’s peace process is marginal.

Reconciliation depends on a delicate balance between the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) and the best organised rebel group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

The Naga live on both side of the India-Myanmar border. More than 90 per cent of them are said to be Christian. In Myanmar the community numbers 400,000. In India, there are over 3 million.

The NSCN-K has been at war with both India and Myanmar over an independent greater Nagaland. A truce in place since 2012 was broken in January when government troops and armed rebels clashed. As a result, the Myanmar military launched an offensive and took NSCN-K’s headquarters in Nanyun.

Unlike other ethnic groups at war with the Myanmar government, the Naga are too small and weak to support the NSCN-K’s armed struggle. By contrast, the UWSA holds two mountainous regions in the eastern State of Shan, on the border with China, and is considered the largest ethnic army in Myanmar.

Unlike other ethnic armed groups, UWSA rules the area he holds and signed a ceasefire with the central government in 1989. Its goal is the recognition of an autonomous, not an independent state.

Its forces are estimated at 30,000 soldiers with 10,000 auxiliaries. The Wa can also count on historic ties with China.

Recently though, the UWSA has been at the centre of a controversy with the Myanmar military. The latter have accused the armed group of acting like a parallel government.

This stems from a major show of military force at a parade (pictured) in Panghsang, the Wa State capital, on 17 April, as part of the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the agreement with the government.

UWSA leaders have dismissed the charges against them as "a misunderstanding". In a statement released today they say that the festivities in April are not comparable to those by the Myanmar Armed Forces.

“We did not intend to provoke anyone by holding the celebration,” said Nyi Rang, a spokesperson for UWSA. “We have a strong armed force, and this will be a strength for the country too,” he added. For some though, this sounds like a veiled threat.

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