Bao Youxiang, the leader of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), last week ordered his forces to withdraw from the Mongla area, which is considered territory of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA).
One of the UWSA checkpoints in Mongla area
The order was released after a meeting of ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in Pangsang, the UWSA headquarters, from 22–24 February.
In late September last year, the UWSA moved battalions in to take control of Mongla, including strategic bases belonging to the NDAA such as two mountain bases, Loi Kiusai and Loi Hsarm Hsoom, and a checkpoint at Parng Mark Fai. The move was reported to be due to an internal conflict between the two traditional allies.
One of the contentious issues that set off the military maneuver appears to be that the Wa rebels asked the NDAA to only allow a low-ranking official to attend the first round of the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC), which began on August 31, 2016. However, Sai Luen, the leader of the NDAA, also widely known as the Mongla Group, joined the meeting in person.
A second issue that arose was that the Mongla Group proposed the establishment of a self-administered zone for the ethnic Akha at the 21CPC.
According to local sources, Bao Youxiang visited Mongla on March 8 and ordered units to withdraw from the NDAA-control areas. However, the sources said only one base, Loi Kiusai, was handed over to the Mongla Group and that Loi Hsarm Hsoom remained under UWSA control at the time of press.
The sources added that even though the Wa forces withdrew from Loi Kiusai, they are currently camped at Nam Lam village, not far from that base.
“Our leader ordered us to withdraw from Loi Kiusai,” said an UWSA official based in the area. “However, we were not ordered to move north to Wa headquarters. Therefore, we only moved to Nam Lam where our division is based.”
The NDAA has traditionally maintained close relations with the Wa army, which is considered the largest ethnic militia force in Burma with a troop strength estimated at 20,000.
Based in eastern Shan State’s Mongla Township (officially known as Shan State Special Region 4), the NDAA has around 3,000 soldiers, according to data from the Myanmar Peace Monitor.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
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