YANGON — Myanmar’s most powerful non-state armed group lashed out at the government Monday after police raided one of its offices, ratcheting up tensions following months of deadly clashes between the army and ethnic insurgents.
Police and military officers reportedly broke into the liaison office of the United Wa State Army in Lashio in their hunt for a Wa man accused of letting off a rifle.
The spat comes after months of fighting between Myanmar’s army and ethnic armed groups on the border with China that has claimed dozens of lives and sent tens of thousands fleeing from their homes.
The UWSA have a decades-old peace deal with the government that affords them control over a large chunk of territory bordering China, where the production of heroin and methamphetamine flourishes.
They are also a key powerbroker in the faltering push by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s to end decades of ethnic insurgencies, holding considerable sway over smaller rebel groups still fighting the government.
But the police raid on their office in Lashio, which lies some 50 kilometres to the west of UWSA, infuriated the group, which said it could “harm stability and peace for both sides”.
“We strongly reject and denounce such kind of behaviour, which is not in accordance with the law,” the Chinese-backed group said in the statement.
“Lashio police force must apologise for breaking into the Wa State liaison office … Otherwise, we have the right to carry out any kind of response necessary to this case.”
Government spokesman U Zaw Htay confirmed a Wa man was accused of letting off his gun in the Shan state capital of Taunggyi last week, but made no further comment.