The United Wa State Army (UWSA) holds sway over a secretive patch of borderland with a thousands-strong rebel fighting force, long accused of drug smuggling.

It called the meeting of around a dozen ethnic armed groups in April, despite not being part of the country's peace talks.

"We are hoping this meeting will be strongly supportive of local peace and a nationwide ceasefire," Major Tar Pan La, spokesman of the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), told

He added that the talks began on Friday and were expected to last until May 6.

President Thein Sein has secured a draft deal with 16 rebel groups to end decades of fighting, described by the United Nations as a "historic and significant achievement".

The government wants a full nationwide ceasefire before elections in November seen as a test of reforms after decades of military rule.

But skirmishes continue in Kachin state, where a ceasefire deal collapsed in 2011 soon after the end of junta rule.

Heavy fighting has also erupted in the Kokang regions of northern Shan state, causing tens of thousands to flee over the border into China and sparking alarm in Beijing.

The UWSA signed a ceasefire with the country's military government back in 1989 and reiterated the deal in 2011.

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