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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Shans offer olive branch to Wa kingpin

Lt-Gen Yawdserk, Chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), has called on Wei Xuegang, Commander of the United Wa State Army (UWSA)’s Thai border based 171st Military Region, for cooperation against drugs, according to Tai Freedom, the movement’s media organ.
Wei Xuegang, also written Wei Hsueh-gang, 66, is wanted in Thailand since 1990 and in the United States since 1998 on drug charges.
Lt-Gen Yawdserk

“President Thein Sein has declared the elimination of (illicit) drugs by 2014,” he said. “The UWSA also has an anti drug policy. It has also held several drug-burning ceremonies. If they are farsighted and, together with us, help the government to eliminate drugs, warrants issued by foreign governments against him and other senior leaders in the UWSA will gradually lose their efficacy.”

“This is the golden opportunity that will never come again,” he added, after SHAN asked for clarification.

Wei, together with 7 other leaders: Chairman Bao Youxiang, Bao Youri, Bao Youliang, Bao Youhua (deceased), Wei Xuelong, Wei Xueyun and Bao Huachiang, were indicted by the US Justice Department on 24 January 2005 on drug trafficking. It also has an “up to $ 2 million” offer for information leading to his arrest since 1998. In Thailand, he has been sentenced to death in absentia.

Yawdserk’s offer came in the wake of the detention of 14 SSA members (16 according to Li Aisu, Commander of the UWSA’s 468th Brigade) on 30 July in Mongton township. They were found setting up a military outpost at Pong Tawng, a location claimed by the UWSA as part of its territory. The SSA had explained that the camp was set up for the security of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) who were starting an agricultural project to make up for the reduction of food assistance from the aid organizations.
Wei Xuegang

During the last week, the SSA twice dispatched officers to negotiate for their release. They returned empty-handed on both occasions.

Zhao Zhongdang, the day-to-day affairs officer for Bao Youxiang, later suggested the SSA should instead send senior officers as emissaries, to which the SSA replied that: •    The two officers acting as emissaries are Central Committee members
•    One is even a liaison officer dealing with the division-sized Burma Army’s Military Operations Command (MOC) 14 and district level administrative authority
•    The SSA had already sent several top level missions to Panghsang, the UWSA headquarters on the Sino-Burmese border, since 2009, to improve relations between the two sides

Sources close to UWSA say it is suspicious that the SSA might join forces with the Burma Army against it. The SSA said the suspicions are groundless because its declared policy is “development and political settlement before suppression”.

“We also don’t have any plans to drive the Wa (from the Thai-Burmese border areas),” said Yawdserk. “We consider them as fellow citizens of the same country. I’m therefore only thinking of how we can live together in harmony.”

The conflict between the two sides goes back to 1985, when Wei broke away from Khun Sa, leader of the Mong Tai Army (MTA), the SSA’s predecessor, to form the Wa National Council (WNC), which later merged with the UWSA. The two sides last fought at Loi Taileng, opposite Maehongson, in 2005. It ended after Bao Youxiang decided the war between them was in neither side’s interests.

“We don’t have any racial problem between us,” said Yawdserk. “Neither do we have any commercial market to grab away from each other.”

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