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It was always going to be a hard task in bringing the Wa leaders to the negotiating table. But when they finally did arrive, they did not stay long.
Burmese government peace negotiator Khin Zaw Oo said it was all a misunderstanding – that the Wa delegates took offence at what they perceived was a relegation of status on their passes to the Union Peace Conference, dubbed “The 21st Century Panglong Conference” by its host and chair Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Regarding the UWSA [United Wa State Army] delegation, it was probably due to a lack of communication on their part, as they have been absent from previous meetings,” said Khin Zaw Oo. “They did not show up at the venue where we planned to accommodate them; but instead made their own arrangements to stay elsewhere.
“Also, they did not make contact with our liaison officers in the organising committee. They arrived just before the forum was due to start, and we were preoccupied with the VIPs at the time. So we issued them observer passes as a temporary solution to let them in.
“Later, we learnt about the hiccup, so we were going to issue them with the correct passes in the evening. But there must have been a misunderstanding.”
Preparatory Committee member Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong said the committee implored the UWSA delegates not leave the conference, but to no avail. Instead, the Wa representatives instructed the organisers to contact the groups leadership in Pangkham in eastern Shan State, he said.
Lian Hmung said that he believed the UWSA delegation thought they were being discriminated against, but it was just a misunderstanding.
The UWSA is yet to make a statement about the incident. In the meantime, it is unclear if the Wa delegation has left the Burmese capital.