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Burmese Army might be targeting UWSA: Observer

New Delhi (Mizzima) - After having overrun and occupied the Kokang area in north-eastern Shan State and driving away its leader, the Burmese military junta might have initiated its move against one of the largest ceasefire groups, the United Wa State Army,  an observer said.

Khuensai Jaiyen, editor of the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), who is close to UWSA, said Wa leaders in Panghsang in eastern Shan state have received a letter from the Burmese Army demanding the extradition of Kokang leader Peng Jiasheng and three others. The junta had issued arrest warrants against them.

“Nobody is sure where Peng and his group are staying right now. It is absurd that the Burmese Army has demanded that the Wa hand over Peng. It seems to me that the junta is starting to pick on the Wa,” Khuensai said.

The letter dated September 1, 2009 was received by Wa leaders in Panghsang on September 2. Worried over the issue, the Wa leaders sat at a meeting on Thursday morning and decided not to respond to the letter, he added.

“The Wa leaders believe that the demand could be a point to pick by the junta and so decided to remain silent without replying to it,” said Khuensai.

He said, whichever way the Wa replies, the junta could find fault. Even by remaining silent, the junta could still find fault and find reasons to launch an attack.

Peng Jiasheng, the once supreme leader of the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), also known as the Kokang Army, was forced to flee Loa Kai, capital of Kokang region, after the Burmese junta issued an arrest warrant for him along with three others including his brother on charges of running an arms and ammunition factory and trafficking.

Peng’s flight left his deputy Bai Suoqing and a few other MNDAA soldiers, who support the junta. The MNDAA was later reformed with the help of the Burmese Army and Bai was appointed the new leader.

“When I asked Wa leaders about the whereabouts of Peng, they told me that he would most probably be with his son-in-law but did not deny or agree that Peng might be in Wa controlled area,” Khuensai said.

According to the Wa leader’s response, Peng and his troops are most likely to be with the Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) or Mongla, whose leader Sai Leun is Peng’s son-in-law.

While the information on the junta’s demand to the Wa to extradite Peng cannot be independently verified, a Sino-Burma border based military analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw said, he does not believe any such demand has been made.

“I have not heard of the demand but I think it is unlikely and Brig Gen Win Maung commander of the Regional Operations Command (ROC) in Lao Kai has no such power to make the demand as the case is to be handled by the Ministry of Home Affairs,” he added.

But he said, in connection with the conflicts last week in Kokang region, Burmese Deputy Home Minister Phone Shwe and a team of delegates, earlier this week, visited Kun Ming, capital of China’s North-western province of Yunnan, and met regional Chinese officials.

Aung Kyaw Zaw said, while the junta is determined to neutralise ethnic armed groups, particularly the ceasefire groups, in eastern Shan State, the UWSA might not be the first target to choose.

Observers agreed that the junta is unlikely to declare war on the UWSA, which is believed to have up to 20,000 soldiers, but use different tactics including ‘divide and conquer’ by exploiting the differences between the leaders, Wei Hsueh-kang and Bao You-Xiang.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 September 2009 23:17 )  

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