Thu 13 Feb 2014
Filed under: Ethnic Issues,Military,News,Regional
The spokesperson of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) denied on Wednesday media reports that 30 rebel soldiers had been sent to China for helicopter pilot training.
Reports that Wa soldiers were being trained in China were first published by the Irrawaddy News on February 11 quoting un-named sources other ethnic armed groups who visited UWSA headquarters.
“We don’t have soldiers who even pass the matriculation exam. How can we learn to become pilot?” said Aung Myint, spokesperson of the UWSA, who said the news was completely fabricated.
“Please ask again to those who said so. Here we have only one small Fokker and one helicopter. We also have a speedboat displayed in our public park. For our local people living in border areas, they have never seen helicopters flying in the air and speedboat running on the water like in the movies,” said Aung Myint.
The Irrawaddy also mentioned that they got confirmation from the UWSA’s top command. In April last year, Jane’s Intelligence, an international military intelligence website also reported that the UWSA received five Mi 70 army helicopters from China.
The government said that there were only two helicopters sent to the UWSA through Laos. The report was also denied by both the UWSA and the Chinese embassy in Myanmar.
Swedish journalist and veteran Myanmar commentator Bertil Lintner, told Eleven Media that the report was likely to be true according to his experience and knowledge.
The UWSA later admitted that they had in fact bought a helicopter from China but it came without an engine. That helicopter and a speedboat were not meant for active service but were to be displayed in a public park.
In May 2013 Sun Khun, the UWSA’s deputy chief of external affairs, said there will be retaliation if anyone attempts to harm the UWSA and its military strength. He was subsequently reprimanded and demoted for his comments.
The UWSP/UWSA has the largest army among armed ethnic groups in Myanmar. It has a total of nearly 30,000 active soldiers. They signed a ceasefire with the government in 2011 but have not been included in current peace negotiations with other ethnic armed groups.
UWSA spokesperson Aung Myint confirmed that during a politburo meeting held in January the UWSA reformed its central committee.
“Our central committee has been restructured overall. New people including youths are included so that they get experience. They need to be groomed well,” he said.
The meeting also saw the retirement of UWSP’s central committee member Kyauk Wun Kwan, advisory committee’s chairperson Bo Like Khem and regional administration deputy chief Bao Tin.
Kyauk Kaw Ann and Pauk Yo Lian who usually attend peace negotiations with the government have been brought into the UWSP central committee to fill the vacancies. They were born in China. Five younger officers have also become members of the central committee. One of them is Sai Sam, deputy commander-in-chief of UWSA.
Besides restructuring the central committee, UWSP’s politburo meeting made four resolutions, according to Aung Myint.
“We review the situation of the whole country, get decisions from the central committee and review mining activists in our area. Companies lack in discipline in their work. So they all need to be closed. It has been decided [our] organisation will take them back,” said Aung Myint.
Eleven Media also contacted the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar but got no answer regarding the training UWSA pilots. There have been similar reports of Chinese intelligence personnel giving regular military training to Wa soldiers.