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Myanmar rebels call on junta to embrace peace talks

YANGON (AFP) – A Myanmar ethnic rebel group with close ties to China called yesterday for the junta to engage in dialogue with anti-coup fighters to end 15 months of bloodshed.

With a standing force of around 25,000, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) is one of the world’s largest non-state militaries, manufacturing its own guns and conscripting a member from each household in areas under its control.

But the UWSA largely sticks to its autonomous enclave on Myanmar’s northern border with China, and has had little involvement in the fighting sparked by the toppling of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government last year.

The UWSA made an “appeal to all parties in the conflict for resolving it by negotiation as soon as possible”, it said in a statement following talks with junta officials in the capital Naypyidaw.

Internal conflicts in the borderlands that have plagued Myanmar since independence from Britain “have proved that any fundamental problems cannot be solved by military force”, it said.

It added the UWSA would remain outside the conflict between the junta and its opponents.

A file photo of Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi. PHOTO: AP