A Sino-Burmese border based ethnic armed group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), said it welcomed Burma’s pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement on national reconciliation and refused to sign the junta’s pre-written statement.

An officer of the UWSA, who requested not to be named, told Mizzima that the group, like many other armed ceasefire groups, was pressured by the junta to sign a pre-written declaration condemning Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement on cooperating with the ruling junta in order to kick-start a process of national reconciliation.

“U Khin Aung Myint [Burmese Cultural Minister] came to us and pressured us to sign a pre-written statement. But we refused because we did not even see the statement. Moreover, we welcome any efforts toward national reconciliation,” the UWSA officer told Mizzima by phone.

Reportedly, the Burmese Cultural Minister traveled to places along the Sino-Burmese border in October and November and held meetings with ethnic armed ceasefire groups and pressured them to sign pre-written statements against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, like the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the UWSA was among the few groups that openly defied the junta’s request and refused to sign the document.

Speaking from the UWSA’s headquarters in Panghshang, eastern Shan State, the officer revealed that the group would like to see democracy and equality among all ethnic groups in Burma.

“We love democracy and peace and we don’t want to face any kind of coercion or violence,” he added.

UWSA was until recently widely known as one of the Burmese junta’s most favored allies, and is reportedly highly involved in the cultivation of poppies and production of amphetamines along the Sino-Burmese border.

However, with the fall of Burma’s former Prime Minister and Intelligence Chief, General Khin Nyunt, and the UWSA’s Chairman’s promise to the Chinese government in late 2004, there has been a drastic fall in opium poppy cultivation.

The UWSA is one of the 17 armed ceasefire groups that attended the Burmese military junta’s long and winding National Convention that concluded this past September.

Following the conclusion of the National Convention, the UWSA, along with other ceasefire groups, has come under pressure from a Burmese military junta determined to completely disarm the ceasefire groups.

According to the UWSA officer, the Burmese junta has been pressuring the group and is banning some of its members based along the Thai-Burmese border from traveling freely and conducting business.

The junta also decided in its National Convention that Wa dominated areas in the south, close to the Thai-Burmese border, would fall under Shan administration, he added.

However he reiterated the Wa’s relentless desire for self-determination, adding, “the Wa army still has 20,000 strong men and the Wa population is estimated at 500,000.”