Military Wiki

The United Wa State Army (Burmese language: ဝပြည် သွေးစည်းညီညွတ်ရေး တပ်မတော်, IPA: [wa̰ pjì θwésí ɲìɲʊʔjé taʔmədɔ̀]; Chinese: 佤联军; pinyin: Wǎ liánjūn; abbreviated UWSA, also known as the UWSP (United Wa State Party) or Red Wa) is an ethnic minority army of an estimated 30,000[1] Wa soldiers of Myanmar's Special Region No. 2 led by Bao Youxiang (鲍有祥). The Government of Burma does not recognise Wa State, which is divided into divisions, states, and special regions. The UWSA is the military wing of the United Wa State Party (UWSP), and was formed after the collapse of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in 1989.[2]

UWSA announced its territory as Wa State Government Special Administrative Region on 1 January 2009.[3] Vice President is Xiao Minliang.[4][5]

The UWSA was founded and led by Chao Ngi Lai (1939-2009) and later Bao Youxiang, the UWSA is strongly supported by China, supporting more than it supports Myanmar.(鲍有祥).[6] The group's Deputy Commander-in-Chief is Zhao Zhongdang.[7] Aung Myint is the spokesperson.[8][9] Co-founder was Xuexian Ai. He formed the Wa National Council (WNC) with Hsang Maha Ngeun Wiang, his brother-in-law, in 1984. His group was nucleus of UWSA 171 Military Region near the Thai border. He died at the age of 78 in Mandalay on 29 October 2011.[10] Ta Maha Hsang sponsored the famous Panglong Agreement" song composed by Sai Kham Leik and song by Sai Hsai Mao.[11] Wa Supreme Court Chief is Li Zhao Guo.[12] Deputy Chief of External Relationship Department is Sun Khun.[13]

UWSA is one of the 17 armed ceased fire groups that attended long National Convention orchestrated by Myanmar military.[14]

It has relationship with ULFA-ATF, an Assam resistant group based in Myanmar.[15][16]


The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has 5 "divisions" deployed along the Thai-Burma border:

  1. 778th Division commanded by Ta Marn
  2. 772nd Division commanded by Ta Hsong
  3. 775th Division commanded by Yang Guojong
  4. 248th Division commanded by Ta Hsang and
  5. 518th Division commanded by Li Hsarm-nab.

On the China-Burma border are stationed another 3 "divisions":

  1. 318th Division
  2. 418th Division
  3. 468th Division.[17]

It has 30,000 active service men with 10,000 auxiliary force.[18] It is one of the largest cease fire groups. Monthly salary is only 60 CNY (7.5 USD).[19] It has clashes with Thai Army in Mar-May 2002.[20]


The towns of Panghsang and Mong Pawk are within the area of this special region.[2] The UWSA negotiated a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese military in the 1990s, and currently backs a counterinsurgency strategy of the Myanmar Army against the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S).[21] The UWSA defied the military regime's recent demand to disarm and participate in the 2010 elections, and instead proposed to declare the territory under their control as a special autonomous region.[22]

According to 2008 constitution, 6 townships are designated as Wa Self-Administered Division. Those are Mongmao, Pangwaun, Namphan, Pangsang aka Pangkham, Hopang and Matman Township. Mong Pawk is not part of it. It is part of Mong Yang Township. UWSA strongly against to give away that area from its control because it serve as a link with its alliance NDAA. Hopang and Metman are not under UWSA control.[7] UWSA announced its territory as Wa State Government Special Administrative Region in January, 2009.[23]


On 17 April 1989, ethnic Wa soldiers established the United Wa State Army and ended the long-running Communist insurgency in Burma.[24] On 9 May 1989, the Burmese government signed a cease-fire agreement with UWSA, formally ending the conflict.[25] The cease-fire agreement has allowed the United Wa State Army to freely expand their logistical operations with the Burmese military, including the trafficking of drugs to neighboring Thailand and Laos.[26]

The United States government labeled the UWSA as a narcotic trafficking organization on May 29, 2003. On November 3, 2005, The Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control listed 11 individuals and 16 companies that were "part of the financial and commercial network of designated significant foreign narcotics trafficker Wei Hsueh-kang and the United Wa State Army (UWSA)." The UWSA is said to be the largest drug-producing organization in Southeast Asia. The UWSP on its part blamed both the Ne Win military government and the CPB for using the Wa as "pawns in the violent destructive games" and encouraging them to grow the opium poppy.[27]

The opium poppy harvest had increased since the former drug baron and warlord Lo Hsing Han managed to rebuild his drug empire after he became the intermediary for cease-fire agreements between the military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt and the Kokang and Wa insurgents who had rebelled against and toppled the Communist leadership in 1989.[28] In addition to the traditional Golden Triangle export of opiates, production has diversified to methamphetamine, or yaa baa, which is not only much cheaper and easier to manufacture than heroin, but also more affordable.[29][30] Thai authorities have denounced methamphetamine production, trafficking, and consumption as a threat to national security. It denied involvement in Mekong incident of 5 November 2011.[31][32]

In recent years, poppy cultivation has declined in both northern Laos and the Wa region partly as a result of a ban imposed by the UWSP in 2005.[33] In 1999, Bao You-Xiang ordered a forced relocation, away from the poppy fields, of six northern Wa districts south to mainly Shan and Lahu areas.[34] The World Food Program (WFP) and China also provided emergency food assistance to former poppy farmers. Chinese criminal organisations in the area however may have simply switched the production line from heroin to amphetamine -type stimulants (ATS) such as yaa baa.[33]


Wei Hsueh-kang founded the Hong Pang Group in 1998 with revenues from the drug trade after taking advantage of the privileges offered in the cease-fire deal by Khin Nyunt. Its position in the country's economy, not just the Wa State, is reflected by the multitude of businesses it owns and controls in construction, agriculture, gems and minerals, petroleum, electronics and communications, distilleries and department stores. Hong Pang Group is based at Panghsang with offices also in Yangon, Mandalay, Lashio, Tachilek and Mawlamyine.[35] UWSA also operate its own bank in the past.[36][37]

Ho Chun Ting, aka Aik Haw aka Hsiao Haw, the son-in-law of Bao You-Xiang, is the principal owner and managing director of Yangon Airways and chairman of Tetkham Co Ltd that runs a chain of hotels. Close to Khin Nyunt and several other generals in the junta, he was also involved in gems auctions and several large construction projects with the Yangon City Development Council. He was reported to have fled to Panghsang following the arrest of his known associates in a drug-related offence in January 2009.[38] Aik Haw was included in the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list published by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control on November 25, 2008.[39]

Former Thai Premier Thaksin and Thai military has business relationship with UWSA.[40]

Arms supply

According to Jane's Intelligence Review in April 2008, China has become the main source of arms to the United Wa State Army, displacing traditional black market sources in South East Asia such as Thailand and Cambodia.[41] A Jane's report in December 2008 stated that the UWSA had turned to arms production to supplement their income from arms and drug trafficking, and started a small arms production line for AK 47s.[21][42]

Jane's reported in 2001 that the UWSA had acquired HN-5N Surface-to-air missile (SAMs) from China as part of the build-up near the Thai border where they were reported to be operating 40-50 laboratories manufacturing yaa baa.[43] It is also the middleman between China arm manufacturers and other insurgent groups of Myanmar.[44]

By 2012, Chinese support had increased to the point of supplying armored vehicles.[45]

On 29 April 2013, Janes IHS reported that several Mil Mi-17 helicopters armed with TY-90 air-to-air missiles were supplied to UWSA by China.[46] The allegations were dismissed by China, Thai military sources, other Myanmar ethnic sources and the UWSA themselves.[47][48]

Kokang incident

In August 2009, the United Wa State Army became involved in a violent conflict with Burma's military junta, the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw). This was the largest outbreak of fighting between ethnic armies and government troops since the signing of the cease-fire 20 years earlier.[1]

In popular culture


The Flaming Dragon gang in the movie Tropic Thunder can be viewed as a comedic, filmic depiction of the UWSA.[citation needed]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Johnson, Tim (August 29, 2009). China Urges Burma to Bridle Ethnic Militia Uprising at Border. The Washington Post.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Chouvy, Pierre-Arnaud. "Myanmar's Wa: Likely Losers in the Opium War". Asia Times January 24, 2004. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  6., UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Myanmar (Burma)
  7. 7.0 7.1
  17. "Transfer of Wa commander raises questions". S.H.A.N., 9 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Lawi Weng (December 16, 2008). "AK-47s - Made in Wa State". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  22. Lawi Weng. "UWSP Proposes Wa Autonomous Region". The Irrawaddy magazine, January 5, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  24. Kramer, Tom (April 2009). "Twenty Years on, the Wa-Burmese Cease-fire looks shakier". Transnational Institute. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  25. "Cease-Fire Agreements with the Junta – Women Excluded from the Process". Global Justice Center. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  26. "As Burma Reforms, Its Narcotics Trade Might Be Worsening". The Atlantic. 18 February 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  27. "UWSP:The Bondage of Opium - a proposal and a plea". Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  28. Bertil Lintner. "The Golden Triangle Opium Trade: An Overview". Asia Pacific Media Services, March 2000. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  29. "Yaa Baa. Production, traffic, and consumption of methamphetamine in Mainland Southeast Asia". Singapore University Press, 2004. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  30. Davis, Anthony (19 November 2004). "Thai drugs smuggling networks reform". Jane's Information Group. Retrieved 2009-03-05. [dead link]
  33. 33.0 33.1 Tom Kramer. "Burmese Daze". The Irrawaddy magazine, November, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  34. "Soldiers of Fortune". TIME asia. December 16, 2002. Archived from the original on 2002-12-10. Retrieved 2009-02-21. 
  35. "The Hong Pang Group". Bangkok Post. July 6, 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  37. Page 3
  38. Min Lwin. "Wa Businessman Flees Drug Charges". The Irrawaddy, February 18, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  39. "Financial Institution Letter". Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). November 25, 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  41. Pubby, Manu. "China emerging as main source of arms to N-E rebels: Jane’s Review". Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  42. Lawi Weng. "Armed Insurgents in Burma Face Shortage of Ammunition". The Irrawaddy December 22, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  43. Davis, Anthony (28 March 2001). "Myanmar heat turned up with SAMs from China". Jane's Information Group. Retrieved 2009-03-05. [dead link]
  45. "With Burma in Mind, China Quietly Supports Wa Rebels."
  46. "China sends armed helicopters to Myanmar separatists."
  47. "After Chinese Arms Allegations, UWSA Shows Off ‘Thai’ Military Hardware". 14 May 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  48. "Doubts cast on Wa helicopter rumors". 20 June 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 


  • "U.S. Links 11 Individuals, 16 Companies to Burma Drug Syndicate." Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. November 4, 2005.
  • Jack Picone. "A Gentler War on Drugs." Utne, September–October 2005, pp. 68–71; originally in Colors magazine (Winter 2004-05)

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