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Civil servants who were withdrawn from the autonomous Wa state area of eastern Burma in April last year may be allowed to return following negotiations between the central government and the United Wa State Army.
The 100 or so workers had become the first victims of a breakdown in relations between Naypyidaw and the Wa army, which has consistently refused to become a government-controlled Border Guard Force.
They were pulled out the region of Shan state belonging to the UWSA at a time when an outbreak in fighting appeared possible. After months of talks, however, the situation has improved.
“We principally agreed on restoring communication, trade routes and road access for civilians,” said UWSA spokesperson Aung Myint, referring to the outcome of a meeting on 6 September between officials from both sides.
He said relations would return to the stage they were at prior to the fissure, adding that government workers may return after the next meeting between the two sides.
Also on the table was a bid to ensure relations remained cordial into the future, and that no fighting would flare. Negotiations over the reopening of liaison offices would follow.
Aung Myint said that the return of government workers to Wa state would assist in rapid development of the region. “It would be better if the workers – such as hospital staff and teachers – come back, and we hope they will come back.”
The 30,000-strong Wa army, Burma’s largest armed ethnic group, had refused to allow troops from the Burmese army to accompany Election Commission officials into their territory last year, prompting their withdrawal and adding to escalating tensions.
The two sides signed a ceasefire in 1989, and relations since then have largely remained stable.