Gov’t peace team moves ahead with Meng La and UWSA agreements

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011 11:53 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Burmese government’s peace team discussed follow-through agreements with the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS) and the United Wa State Army (UWSA) separately on Monday and Tuesday.

An official from the NDAA-ESS, also known as the Meng La group, said they met government officials at their headquarters in Meng La, in northeast Shan State on Tuesday. Earlier, the two sides signed a cease-fire agreement.

“They came here by helicopter at about 10 in the morning and the meeting ended at 12:30,” he said. He declined to provide information about the nature of the talks, which are designed to implement specific agreements.

The two sides met on September 7 in Kengtung and again on October 9, when a cease-fire declaration was signed. The government team, lead by Aung Thaung, included Thein Zaw, Shan State Chief Minister Sai Aung Myat, State government Security Border Affairs Minister Colonel Aung Thu, State Advocate General Maung Maung. The Mengl La delegation was led by Vice Chairman San Pay.

At the October meeting, they agreed on reopening liaison offices, sending government officials to the Meng La area and cooperating on Special Region 4 development projects for education, health, agriculture, road transport and eradication of illegal drugs.

The sides also agreed to inform each other when they wanted to cross the other’s control area, and delineating the Meng La control area as the same as it was in the first cease-fire period.

Earlier, when the Meng La group refused to accept a government offer to transform its army into a government-controlled Border Guard Force, the government withdrew its officials from the area. They returned to the region earlier this month.

The Meng La group operates in northeastern Shan State, Kengtung District, Mong Phyak and Mong Yawng townships, and along the Laos border and Mekong River on the Chinese border. Its army strength is estimated at more than 3,000 troops consisting of various nationalities including Shan, Palaung and Ahkha.

The peace delegation also met UWSA officials on Monday at their headquarters in Panseng.

In their second meeting with the government delegation, UWSA officials said the wanted to extract teak and hardwood at the rate of 20,000 tons per month, be granted business licenses, free passage to government-controlled areas, a cease-fire with other armed groups, provided monthly aid of 2,000 rice bags, provided financial assistance and vehicle licenses for restricted areas.

“We agreed to meet again in Lashio and implement the agreement. And then they told us to submit our businesses as companies and we talked about peace matters,” said a spokesman. He said the Wa would also send representatives to different levels of parliaments to present various issues.

“Our meetings have progressed,” he said. “In the previous meetings, we didn’t have a precise agenda and topics. Now we discussed concrete matters related to agreements we had signed so we must say the talks have progressed. We must go step by step.”

About 130 government staff reportedly reentered the Wa region this month. Sources said that they might have discussed holding by-elections in the area. According to the 2008 Constitution, the Wa self-administered division has six townships. Only two townships had polling stations in the 2010 general election.