By Eric Vandenbroeck and co-workers

Myanmar and the looming war for its borderlands Part Four

The tumultuous events in the Wa Hills and other parts of the former base areas of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in the late 1980s altered the military map of Burma dramatically in a way that was no offensive by the government’s army could ever have done. Many outsiders had initially expected that the Wa and other CPB mutineers would link up with Burma’s other ethnic minority armies and perhaps even the urban dissidents who had fled to rebel-controlled areas after the bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in September 1988, but that did not happen.

The National Democratic Front (NDF) did indeed send a delegation to Panghsang after the mutiny. Mahasang from the Wa National Organisation (WNO) led the group, and his ethnic allies expected that he would win the Wa and other former CPB forces over to the NDF and thus forge a broad alliance against the government. Sensing what was about to happen, the new military junta acted faster and offered much more than the ethnic rebels. The generals now in power in Rangoon were determined to prevent a linkup that could have disastrous consequences for the new regime. The strategy they employed was to neutralize the ex-CPB forces with ceasefire deals and promises lucrative business opportunities.

The first surprise came within days of the mutiny and before Mahasang had arrived in Panghsang. He was arrested by his Wa brethren but managed to escape and make it back to Thailand. What had happened in the meantime was that General Khin Nyunt, the powerful chief of Burma’s military intelligence service, had called in the old Kokang warlord Luo Xinghan to act as an intermediary with the mutineers. Luo’s death sentence, passed in 1976 after a lengthy trial, had not been carried out. He had been released during the 1980 amnesty when most of his men also returned from the Thai border. The government had also given Luo two million Burmese kyats to build a military camp southeast of Lashio. Called The Salween Village,’ it became the base for a new home guard unit, this time under the government’s new pyi thu sit (‘peoples militia) program, which was launched after the disbandment of the old Ka Kwe Ye (KKY) seven years before. The new agreement was effectively the same as the former accord between Rangoon and the local militias: fight the rebels and gain, in return, access to government-controlled roads and towns for smuggling.

However, it was not until the CPB mutiny that Luo regained his former strength and prominence. On March 20-21, only a week after the first uprising in Kokang and Mong Ko, Luo was dispatched to the area, and this time his former enemies Peng Jiasheng and Peng Jiafu arranged a dinner party for him. Luo’s message to the northern mutineers was clear: the government is willing to let you keep your guns and control of your area in exchange for a ceasefire and a pledge not to share your weapons with other ethnic rebels or the urban dissidents.1

Luo’s meeting with the mutineers in Kokang was followed by a trip to the north by Aung Gyi, a former Sino-Burmese brigadier general in the Burmese army who became a politician during the 1988 uprising, and Olive Yang, a colorful and well-known Kokang Chinese war lady.2 She belonged to the old ruling family of Kokang and had become famous when she linked up with the Kuomintang in the 1950s and early 1960s and became the first drug trafficker to send opium in lorry convoys down to the Thai border.3 Aung Gyi and Olive Yang met the Peng brothers under the watchful eye of Burma’s military intelligence in the garrison town of Lashio.

In late April, shortly after the Wa had taken over Panghsang and Aung Gyi and Olive Yang had visited the north, Khin Nyunt himself and Colonel Maung Tint, the chief of the Burmese army’s Lashio- based northeastern command, flew by helicopter to Kunlong on the Salween River, the site of the forty-two-day battle in 1971-72. They met Peng Jiafu and agreed on a temporary ceasefire. After this initial meeting in Kunlong, Khin Nyunt paid several visits to Kokang, which received comprehensive coverage in Burma’s government-controlled media.4

The time was ripe to invite Zhao Yilai and other Wa leaders, who controlled nearly eighty percent of the CPB’s old army. A helicopter was sent to the Wa Hills to pick them up, and meetings were held in Lashio between them and Khin Nyunt, Maung Tint, and other officers from Burma’s regular army and its military intelligence services. The junta in Rangoon pledged to spend seventy million kyat on a ‘border development program’ under which roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals were built in the Wa Hills. Diesel, petrol, kerosene, and rice would also be distributed in former CPB areas.5

Luo’s importance grew as he was able to strike business deals with the mutineers in Kokang. A company called Asia World was founded, and within years of the mutiny became one of Burma’s most powerful conglomerates. Former CPB commanders, who only months before had been denounced in the government-controlled media as ‘drug traffickers,’ ‘drunkards,’ ‘womanizers,’ and ‘bandits,’ suddenly became respectable citizens, now described as ‘village elders’ and ‘leaders of the national races.’6 In what could have been an oversight by the editor of The Working Peoples Daily, its December 5, 1989 issue published a vitriolic attack on the former CPB commander Zhang Zhiming (Kyi Myint), who was described as a “bull on the heat when it comes to female matters.”7 On the day the article appeared in the official newspaper, Zhang Zhiming was in Rangoon, engaged in unofficial talks to hammer out the details of a ceasefire deal with the military authorities.

The former CPB army, meanwhile, had split up into four different forces based along ethnic lines. What used to be called the 101 Warzone in Kachin State, a sliver of land along the Chinese border stretching from Chimeli pass to Kambaiti, became the New Democratic Army, sometimes with ‘Kachin added after it, and so abbreviated to NDA- K. It was led by Sakhon Ting Ying and Zalum who had defected from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in 1968. The population there, only a few thousand, was almost exclusively Kachin. In Kokang, the Peng brothers set up the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). At the same time, Peng Jiasheng’s son-in-law, Lin Mingxian, or Sai Leun, in Mong La and the former 815 War Zone became the National Democratic Alliance Army (Eastern Shan State), or NDAA(ESS).

On November 30, 1989, the newly formed Burma National United Party (BNUP) merged with, or instead absorbed, the much smaller Wa National Council (WNC), officially the administrative arm of the WNO but, in reality, a separate entity. The links between the two groups that existed before 1989 were formalized, and the new unified organization was named the United Wa State Party (UWSP). Its forces, by far the largest non-governmental army in Burma, became the United Wa State Army (UWSA). Zhao Yilai headed the civilian side of the movement while Bao Youxiang was appointed chief of the military. Headquartered at Panghsang, which was renamed Pangkham, the UWSA took over the CPB's old stocks of Chinese- supplied weapons, which were kept in warehouses near the homes of the former party leaders.

After concluding a ceasefire agreement with the MNDAA in Kokang, the government offered the Wa and the other former CPB forces the same deal. Western media and even academics usually state that the UWSA and the other groups “signed ceasefire agreements with the government in 1989.”8 But, at that stage, nothing was signed. All agreements were mere verbal understandings. It was not until October 1, 2011, that the UWSA signed a document, followed by another agreement on December 26, 2012, and a third on July 13, 2013.9 Those agreements said little more than that the Wa had no intention of breaking away from the union. The Wa area was also designated ‘Special Region (2)’ because their organization was the second to enter into a pact with the central government. Kokang, the first ex-CPB force to agree with the government, became ‘Special Region (1),’ while the NDAA (ESS)’s area was designated ‘Special Region (4)’. The Shan State Army (SSA), which had been a close CPB ally since the mid-1970s, concluded a ceasefire agreement with the government on September 2, 1989, and its area in central Shan State became ‘Special Region (3).’

The 1989 agreements meant no chance of a linkup between the CPB mutineers and the country’s many ethnic and political rebels. Moreover, shortly after deals had been struck between the former CPB forces and the government in Rangoon, other ethnic armies that had depended on the communists for arms supplies entered into a similar agreement with central authorities. Once the SSA had made peace with the government, other smaller groups in Shan State, such as Palaung and Pa-O armies, followed suit.

A significant blow to old alliances in the north came when, in January 1991, the 4th Brigade of the KIA in northeastern Shan State broke away to become the Kachin Democratic Army (KDA) and made peace with the government. The next big setback for the NDF came when the main KIA gave up its armed struggle in September 1993. On February 24, 1994, the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), signed an official ceasefire agreement at a grand ceremony in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. The KIO was the only ethnic armed organization that insisted on such a written agreement and got it.

The crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising in 1988 had been enormously bloody. Thousands of demonstrators and activists had been gunned down and even more put in jail. But the military had made some changes to the old system and abolished the old one-party system under Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP). It was now permitted to form other parties, so the pro-democracy movement set up the National League for Democracy (NLD). These developments did not signify that the country was becoming any more democratic than before. In another crackdown in July 1989, the NLD's entire leadership was detained. Most of them ended up in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Jail, while the prominent leader, Aung Sans's daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, was placed under house arrest in her home in Rangoon.

Ironically, when almost the entire population of Burma had turned against the regime, thousands of former insurgents who had been fighting against the central government made deals with the ruling military. The threat from the border areas was thwarted, and the regime was safe, but the consequences for the country and the outside world were disastrous. Freedom to engage in ‘business’ in the northeast meant that no authority would stop the production of opium and its derivative heroin. In 1987, the US State Department estimated that poppy cultivation in Burma was 92,300 hectares. In 1989, that rose to 142,742 hectares. In 1991, 161,012 hectares with a potential production of 185 metric tons of heroin, up from 53 Lons in 1987.10 The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had slightly different figures. Still, those also show a sharp increase in opium and heroin production after the UWSA entered into a ceasefire agreement with the military government in Rangoon. In 1986, the DEA states, Burma produced 900 tons of opium and 75 tons of heroin. It rose to 2,430 tons of opium and 203 tons of heroin in 1989 to reach a peak of 2,575 tons of opium and 215 tons of heroin in 1993.11

The ceasefire agreements with the government made it possible for the CPB mutineers to travel more freely and thus import acetic anhydrite and other chemicals from China, India, and Thailand. For the first time, pure white number 4 heroin was produced in the former CPB areas. In the early 1990s, there were at least seventeen heroin laboratories at locations stretching from Mong Ko and Kokang in the north through the Wa Hills in the middle and to the NDAA (ESS) s area in eastern Shan State.12

The Wa mutineers’ merger with the WNC, and the Wa who had fled the Wa Hills in the early 1970s and then encamped themselves on the Thai border, also made it possible for the UWSA to establish an entirely new base area far from their traditional homeland along the Chinese frontier. Beginning in the mid-1990s, tens of thousands of Wa and some Lahu from the north were relocated to the south. Entire new towns sprung up just across the border from Thailand, and the inhabitants of the area, primarily ethnic Shan, were driven out and became refugees in Thailand.

The Wa leadership motivated the Wa to move south by claiming that they wanted to get the peasants in the north away from growing poppies. The Wa also said that those areas along the Thai border were theirs because the first inhabitants there were the closely related Lawa, to whom the rulers of Chiang Mai, as well as Kengtung, had had to pay tribute as the “original owners of the land.”13 The first claim was not convincing, as drug production flourished in the Thai border areas after the move. The second argument may have been historically correct, but the Lawa population of northern Thailand is negligible, and thousands of Shan had lived there for centuries. But with their superior firepower, the UWSA wrested control over a new area in the south almost as large as the northern Wa Hills.

The leader of the now-defunct WNC, Ai Kyaw Hso (Ai Xiao Sue), a former KKY commander from Yawnghpre in the northern Wa Hills and one-time ally of Mahasang, had opened the southern areas for the Wa. Still, he was far from the most crucial player along the Thai border. His organization was, in effect, controlled by the Weis, three brothers of Yunnanese extraction who had spent years in the ns Wa Hills. After the communist victory in the Chinese civil war, their family had fled across the border and settled in Vingngun, where they became involved with the local Wa saohpa and the Kuomintang, and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).14

The Wei brothers withdrew with Mahasang’s Wa to the Thai border after the CPB had taken over the Wa Hills. The middle brother, Wei Xuegang, first joined opium warlord Khun Sa’s Shanland United Army (SUA) and served for several years as its treasurer. During that time, he traveled extensively to Taiwan, West Germany, and other countries. Through contacts in Thailand, he had acquired Thai citizenship and used Thai passports when he traveled abroad. His Thai passport name was Prasit Chiwinitipanya, sometimes Charnchai Chiwinitipanya. In contrast, the elder brother, Wei Xuelong, also a Thai citizen, became Apichart Chiwinprapasri, and the younger brother, Wei Xueyin, was given the Thai name Pairot Sameur Jayneuk.15 The wily warlord Khun Sa, whose Chinese name was Zhang Qifu, had also become a Thai citizen with the name Chan Changtrakul, yet another outcome of the close relationship that once existed between Burma’s drug lords and Thailand’s security services.

Wei Xuegang fell out with Khun Sa after allegedly having embezzled a large sum of money and was imprisoned at the warlord’s headquarters at Ban Hin Taek in the mountains northwest of Chiang Rai. Wei managed to escape, however, and in 1982 and 1983 took refuge in Taiwan before returning to the Thai-Burmese border areas where he built up his drug empire. Lacking an army inside Burma, he and his brothers used their old contacts with the Wa and bankrolled the buildup of the WNO, WNA, and WNC. When the WNC merged with the northern Wa and the UWSA was established in 1989, the Wei brothers gained access to the vast poppy fields in the Wa Hills and areas where raw opium could be refined into heroin.

The WNC leader Ai Kyaw Hso (Ai Xiao Sue) soon faded into the background as the Wei brothers assumed almost total control of the UWSAs southern forces. Weis also introduced a new drug: methamphetamine. Unlike heroin, which could only be produced after months of laborious work in the poppy fields and then cumbersome refining procedures, methamphetamine could be manufactured synthetically. Bags with small methamphetamine pills were also easier to smuggle across the border. The primary market was right there, in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. Heroin, on the other hand, had to be smuggled to China and Western countries, which was far riskier and involved several local middlemen who could not always be trusted.

Khun Sa, whose army was now called the Mong Tai Army (MTA), was the main rival in the trade, vying for control of lucrative trading routes to Thailand and the outside world. Throughout the early 1990s, fierce battles were fought between the UWSA and the MTA. Following the 1989 ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government, the UWSA sent thousands of troops down to the Thai border. Khun Sa was cornered, and in January 1996, he decided, to the surprise of many, to surrender to the Burmese authorities. His once-mighty MTA was disbanded, Khun Sa moved to Rangoon, and his top lieutenants established themselves as legitimate businessmen in the Burmese capital, in Mandalay, and Lashio.

It was the deal of the century, but it also inadvertently meant that the UWSA became the most vital and most important player in the northern Thai-Burmese border areas. However, a few of Khun Sas's men led by a junior officer called Yawt Serk, who had refused to surrender, built up a new rebel outfit called the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS). The Thais probably needed someone to counterbalance the UWSA so that the RCSS could obtain guns, uniforms, and other equipment from the Thai side of the border. Among the Shan, Yawt Serk managed to cause some confusion by naming his army the Shan State Army. To distinguish it from the old SSA, Yawt Serks army became known as £SSA-South.’ The accurate SSA and its political wing, the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), was referred to in foreign reports and literature as ‘SSA-North.’

In 2007, the East-West Center in Washington published a booklet called The United Wa State Army: Narco-Army or Ethnic Nationalist Party? It was well-written and informative, but the mistake was to put a question mark in the title. An ethnic or politically motivated nongovernmental army can be both, like Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Fare, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which used to trade in cocaine at the same time as adhering to Marxist ideologies and principles. Likewise, the UWSA’s political wing, the UWSP, used income from the drug trade to promote Wa nationalism and develop the area under its control.

Within years of the mutiny, Panghsang had been transformed into a modern town with marketplaces, retail stores, workshops, multistory houses, and paved streets with streetlights powered by solar panels. During the CPB days, there were only some old Chinese army trucks and jeeps in Panghsang. Now, new cars, buses, and trucks began to ply the streets in town and the roads between the various settlements. A new concrete bridge was built to connect Panghsang with the town of Meng A on the Chinese side of the Nam Hka River.

The diversity of the population was reflected in the new religious buildings that were erected: a new Buddhist pagoda, Christian churches, and a prominent mosque with a dome. Restaurants serving Chinese and Shan food opened up, hotels, smaller guest houses, and a casino, which attracted high rollers from Yunnan and elsewhere in China. Chinese companies were hired to build roads between villages previously reachable only on foot along slippery mountain paths.

Above all, the creation of an indigenous authority saw the revival of Wa culture, something that the CPB had paid little or no interest in preserving. The schools began to teach in Wa, Chinese, Shan, Lahu, and other local languages and, for good measure, Burmese. Chinese and Shan are most widely spoken as a second language among the Wa. At the same time, despite the pacts with the central government, Burmese is still considered an alien tongue to most border areas. Books and journals were printed in romanized Wa, using the old system Vincent Young and the missionaries had developed before World War II, not the Chinese introduced in southern Yunnan in the 1950s. Statues of Wa heroes and the national symbol, the buffalo, were placed at major intersections in Panghsang to serve as reminders of Wa culture and heritage.

For the Wa, their mountains are not, as they had been for the CPB, a springboard’ from where they would move somewhere else. This is their homeland. In 1995, the government referred to as ‘the Wa Central Authority’ (WCA) was established at Panghsang, or Pangkham as they sometimes prefer to call it. It has twelve bureaus responsible for finance, political work, agriculture and forestry, public relations, law enforcement, logistics, health and education, construction, military matters, foreign relations, and even a unit for women's affairs. Before 1989, there were only twenty schools with 480 pupils and a hundred teachers in the Wa Hills. Now there are 409 with more than 60,000 pupils and 2,400 teachers. Today, nearly every village has its primary school, and there is a high school in every township. When the CPB ruled the area, there were only four poorly equipped hospitals. In 2019, there were 26 better-equipped facilities, including smaller clinics with doctors and nurses who have been educated in China.16

Where in the past mule tracks were the most advanced lines of communication, new roads have been built by Chinese contractors to connect significant settlements. The roads in the Wa Hills are even in much better condition than those in government-controlled areas.17 The initial capital to pay for all this may have come from the drug trade, but in recent years the Wa economy has been diversified to include income from tin mining and investments in Burma, China, and Thailand. Poppy fields have given way to rubber plantations and tea gardens. But it is capitalism with many distinct Chinese characteristics, as researcher Hans Steinmiiller points out in a study: “The kind of authoritarian capitalism that has developed in the Wa State has similar effects as in China. Even though relative inequality has risen exponentially, living standards are higher and absolute poverty is lower than in the past.”18

Large-scale construction projects are managed directly by the top authority, but the payment of salaries has created a cash economy where, in the past, barter was the norm, and the only hard currencies that people in the Wa Hills accepted were opium and old Indian silver coins. But it is the Chinese yuan, not the Burmese kyat, is used for business and in markets and shops in Wa areas. Mobile phones and the Internet are also connected to Chinese, not Burmese, servers.

Moreover, as Steinmiiller points out, many young Wa go across the border to find work, generally without permits or identity cards, but they are taken to Chinese factories by Chinese and Wa middlemen.19

The Wa authority has its own set of laws passed on December 24, 2003, and printed in the Wa language and Chinese and Burmese. A court system is in place, and while local courts can sentence offenders to imprisonment and the payment of fines, the death penalty, which is on the books, can be meted out only by the top leadership.20 Administratively, the WCA, which a chairman heads, has a political advisory committee that serves as an unofficial parliament. The head of the UWSP is a secretary-general, and its commander-in-chief leads the UWSA.

There are three in the north plus two particular townships—has its local government, and a local administrative committee is in charge of the southern areas along the Thai border. In addition, the WCA maintains liaison offices in the government-controlled cities and towns of Rangoon, Lashio, Mandalay, Tachilek, and Kengtung.21

Despite its well-organized administrative structure, the new ‘Wa State,’ as it became known, although recognized officially only as a particular region within the Union of Burma, is no democracy. It is a one-party state under the UWSP, and the UWSP controls the Wa government and the UWSA. The basic setup that has emerged since the mutiny is, in essence, Leninist, and apart from the ideology, its organizational structure is more or less the same as that of the old CPB. The UWSP remains a Leninist-style vanguard party with only 10,000 of the approximately 500,000 inhabitants in the area it controls being members. It is not a mass organization.

Zhao Yilais authority as chairman of the government and secretary-general of the party was formalized at the UWSP’s first congress in January 1992. But Zhao’s health was failing, and in February 1995, he suffered a stroke and had to be hospitalized, first in Cangyuan across the border in Yunnan and later in Shanghai. He continued to attend meetings after his return to Panghsang, often sitting in a wheelchair. He was soon hospitalized again, this time in Lancang in Yunnan, following another stroke. He died there on the morning of September 8, 2009. Four days later, more than a thousand people gathered for his funeral at Saohpa, a small town near the Chinese border where he was born. Speakers at the ceremony pointed out that Zhao had unified the Wa people and lifted them out of poverty, humiliation, and oppression. Even today, Zhao Yilai, or Ta Lai as he is called in his language, is seen as the father of the modern Wa nation. After the 1989 mutiny, he converted to Christianity to honor his stepfather, a Wa Christian who had taken care of the young boy when his poor parents had been unable to do so.

While Zhao remained the father of the nation until his death, the new leader, Bao Youxiang, had been acting general secretary of the UWSP since 2004, serving concurrently as commander-in­chief of the UWSA and chairman of the Wa administration, thus holding all three key positions in the leadership of the unofficial ‘Wa State.’ After the death of Zhao, Bao Youxiang and his brothers— the elder Bao Youri and the younger Bao Youliang—became the undisputed triumvirate ruling the Wa region. A fourth brother, Bao Youhua, died of a massive stroke in 2007. Bao Youri was in charge of managing the movement’s finances while Bao Youliang became the head of Mong Mau, a district that includes a financially important tin mining area.

The Bao brothers, especially Bao Youxiang himself, made sure they and trusted Wa associates controlled the UWSA. The number two in the military setup, Zhao Zhongdan, was one of them, and when Bao’s health began to fail in the 2000s, he was entrusted to run the day-to-day affairs of the army. Bao had contracted chronic trichinosis after eating poorly prepared pickled pork, called neu som in Shan and naem in Thai. That illness makes any physical or mental activity extremely strenuous.

However, the civil administration that emerged in the 1990s and early 2000s shows a different, less cohesive pattern. Chin Ko-lin, a Burma-born ethnic Chinese-American criminologist, describes it this way:

Wa leaders are viewed as the muscle within the Wa administration, and the Chinese are the brains. Ethnic Wa is respected for their fighting skills and, because of their ethnicity, they are the masters of the Wa area, even though some of them were born in China and came to the Wa area only recently. Ethnic Chinese are considered smart people with good business and organizational skills, but because they are not ethnic Wa, they can only work for the Wa people, even though some of the Chinese were born in the Wa area. As a result, many Wa government units are headed by ethnic Wa, but day-to-day operations of these units are conducted by ethnic Chinese who are usually deputy chiefs.22

That is where the Wei brothers come into the picture. As smart business people, they took charge of Wa enterprises and not only the drug trade. Profits were reinvested in hotels and real estate in Rangoon and Mandalay, and using proxies, the Weis even took over Yangon Airlines, a domestic carrier.

Xiao Minliang, second in command of civil administration and entrusted with clerical and organizational work for the WCA, belongs to the other category, a China-born Wa. He hailed from a small Wa village near Cangyuan in Yunnan and was educated there. At twenty, he was sent to join the CPB and later served under Bao Youxiang and Li Ziru in central Shan State. Li Ziru, an ethnic Chinese from Baoshan in Yunnan and one of the old Red Guard volunteers, actually rose to be deputy commander-in-chief of the UWSA after 1989, he ran various kinds of businesses from his base at Nalawt, a few kilometers west of Panghsang. Li suffered a stroke and died in 2005, and since then, the only Chinese ex-volunteer who has remained in a high position within the Wa administration is Zhao Guoan. Born in Nansan near Yunnan's border with Kokang, he is in charge of foreign affairs and has represented the UWSA at peace talks with the Myanmar government. Li Ziru’s two sons, Li Zuhua and Li Ching have taken over their father’s various business enterprises, which, at least in the beginning, included investment in the drug trade.

The other former CPB areas also saw rapid economic and social development after the 1989 mutiny. The Kokang Chinese built a new fortune based on drugs, but rival gangs soon fell out over who should be controlling the trade. In 1992, open warfare broke out as Yang Maolian, a former CPB military officer, drove Peng Jiasheng out of Kokang. Yang became the new chieftain, but his relations with China suffered a severe blow in 1994 when his younger brother, Yang Maoxian, was arrested by the Chinese, convicted of drug trafficking, and executed in Kunming.

In the former 815 War Zone, which had become the NDAA (ESS), Lin Mingxian, or Sai Leun, transformed his Mong La headquarters into a center for all kinds of vice, including gambling and prostitution and transvestite shows. This entertainment industry, rather unorthodox in a former communist stronghold, catered to a mainly Chinese clientele, and buses from China became a common sight in Mong La. New buildings, including fancy hotels, casinos, karaoke, bars, and nightclubs, sprung up in and around Mong La. A new hydroelectric power station was built on the Nam Loi River to provide that establishment with round-the-clock electricity.

As in other former CPB areas, income from the drug trade provided the financial basis for that development. Shortly after the 1989 mutiny, heroin laboratories were set up near Mong La and in the mountains closer to the Mekong River. Drug production activities in those areas were controlled by the top leadership of the NDAA (ESS) as a highly centralized committee headed by Lin and including twelve other local functionaries. They decided which operators would operate where and how much they should pay in taxes and duties to the center at Mong La. The profits were then equally divided between Lin and other shareholders in the enterprise.

However, as one would expect when drugs are involved, all was not well in Mong La. In November 1993, three men were dragged out into the central market and executed by firing squad in front of a big audience. They were accused of having tried to assassinate Lin. The plot, Lin suspected, had been masterminded by his then main rival in the drug trade, Khun Sa.23

Most of the NDAA (ESS) s troops, a few thousand, were Shan, Akha, and eastern Palaung, but many of its officers were Chinese or, as in Lin, Sino-Shan. His second in command, Zhang Zhiming, or Kyi Myint, is an old childhood friend. Zhang was born in Wanding on the Chinese side of the border opposite Lins native place, Panghsai. Like Li Ziru and Zhao Guoan, Zhang also came as a Red Guard volunteer to fight alongside the CPB in the late 1960s and stayed on when the others were recalled to China in the late 1970s.

Mong La grew to become one of the most prosperous towns on the Burma-China frontier. Some of the proceeds from there were also reinvested in real estate in Rangoon and Mandalay, Yunnan, northern Thailand, and Hong Kong and Taiwan.24 As the tourism industry grew, especially the lucrative casino business, drugs became a minor income for Lin and his NDAA (ESS), and today their contribution is negligible. There may be private dealers in Mong La, but it is no longer an official government business.

In Kachin State, the area controlled by Ting Ying’s and Zalum’s NDA-K was too remote to attract many Chinese visitors. However, it had one resource that turned out to be a boon for the former Kachin communists: timber. The World Resources Institute reported as early as 1998 that “high-resolution satellite data show that this frontier is now being threatened by logging. Evidence elsewhere in the region suggests that Kachin State may be in the early stages of a period of intense deforestation that could culminate in the clearing of all accessible timber, leaving just a patchwork of severely damaged forest fragments.”25 In October 2005, Global Witness published a damaging report on deforestation in northern Burma and legal and illegal exports of timber to China.26 That report caused quite an uproar among official circles in China, as it revealed that thousands of tons of teak, other hardwood, and assorted forestry products were being transported across the border to Yunnan. The Chinese foreign ministry claimed in a statement that the Global Witness report contained a lot of “untruthful information” and went on to say that China does not allow its citizens “to conduct illegal deforestation activities and trade across the border.”27 That, of course, was a ludicrous claim as convoys of heavily laden timber trucks could be seen leaving the NDA-K area for Tengchong and other towns in Yunnan every day. But the exposure led to a partial clampdown on the trade, which came too late. By the mid-20ios, most of the forest was gone, leaving opium poppies to be planted on the denuded mountains.

While the UWSA and the NDAA (ESS) managed to survive and prosper, the NDA-K soon fell apart because of infighting and personal rivalries. Zalum was ousted after trying to stage a coup, and Ting Ying moved even closer to the ruling military by agreeing to be the leader of a so-called Border Guard Force under Burmese command. Other units remained at Kambaiti and Pangva on the Chinese border, where they soon became engaged in drug trafficking and the production of weapons in clandestine arms factories.

Some of the younger former CPB cadres sent to Pangva and the party leadership after the 1989 mutiny had decided to stay on when the top leaders and their families were transferred to retirement homes in Kunming. For some reason, Ting Yang and his men thought those younger former CPB members would resurrect the party and had several of them arrested and executed. By 2020, the fragmentation of the NDA-K was almost complete. Only small bands of armed militiamen remained in the area.

In the beginning, Chinas reaction to all these developments did not appear to be particularly clear, and there did not seem to be any kind of coordinated policy apart from denial of any ‘interference’ in Burma’s internal affairs, as Song Qingrun, an associate professor at Chinas Institute of South Asia, wrote in March 2015: “The truth ... is that China has never intervened in Myanmar’s internal affairs.”28 Such nonsense has been repeated by several China-associated scholars, among them Yun Sun at the Stimson Center in the US, who frequently refers to Chinas “principle of non-interference in other countries internal affairs.”29

The truth is that China has always interfered in Myanmar’s internal affairs and done so blatantly, and that policy has not changed since hard-line communism was abandoned in the 1980s. But with the promotion of free trade and with drug production across the border in Burma skyrocketing in the 1990s, China’s priorities changed at the same time as it became almost impossible to curtail corruption within the less ideologically motivated post-Mao administration. Officially, many of the former CPB commanders who had become drug dealers, especially those from Mong Ko and Kokang, were barred from entering China. The fact that all of them had been operating for years along the Sino-Burmese border meant, however, that they had long-standing working relationships with Chinese security authorities. This personal relationship enabled them to visit China regularly and own property, including hotels and private houses, across the border. They were often also seen being driven around in cars owned by local Chinese security officials.30

Before the communist takeover in 1949, China had vast poppy fields and millions of opium smokers. Addiction was considered one of the country’s most serious social problems, which was why the communists decided to end it. The methods were brutal, but they worked. Hundreds, if not thousands, of gangsters, dealers, and even addicts were rounded up and shot after summary trials. Addicts who were considered curable were sent to rehabilitation camps, and the vast poppy fields in China's interior, mainly in Sichuan and Yunnan, were cut down.

Then came Chinas new economic policies in the 1980s. As private enterprise was encouraged, people became more mobile, and borders were not as closely guarded as during the Mao regime. Those developments, combined with the surge in drug production across the border in Burma, led to the return of drug abuse all over China. Heroin became the drug of choice, and it was readily available not only in Yunnanese towns such as Kunming, Ruili, and Baoshan but in all major Chinese cities.

The degree to which drugs and drug money had affected local politics and corrupted society became apparent when, on the evening of August 30, 1992, a motorcade of over a hundred military vehicles carrying 2,000 police and paramilitary police officers left Kunming and headed south towards the border with Vietnam. Their target was the town of Pingyuan, which had served as a transit point for the trade-in contraband with Vietnam and Laos. Taking advantage of the new economic opening, Pingyuan had also become a center for collecting and distributing opium, heroin, and guns. From Pingyuan, drugs brought in from Burma, either directly or via Laos, were shipped to more than twenty-four provinces throughout China.31 The armed task force dispatched from Kunming had been instructed to recapture the town from the traffickers.

It was deemed a sensitive operation because most Pingyuans population was Hui, or Yunnanese Muslims (whom the Burmese refer to as Panthay). They had rebelled during the Cultural Revolution, which had led to a bloody crackdown resulting in more than 1,600 of them being killed by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). Hardly surprisingly, distrust of the authorities was deeply rooted among the Hui in Pingyuan. The massacre in the mid-1970s was probably why the provincial government this time deployed paramilitary units rather than the regular military.

The operation began on August 31 and lasted for eighty days, first as a siege and then as an armed confrontation. The Hui in the town had guns. They fought back but eventually surrendered to the superior force from Kunming. When it was over, the Chinese commanders found luxury villas, bars, and dance halls run by the traffickers. Among the traffickers was Ma Siling, who lived in a fortified manor in Pingyuan despite being sentenced to death by a local court for drug trafficking. The net haul after the operation: 854 people arrested and 981 kilograms of drugs seized along with 353 assorted weapons.32

A public trial attended by more than 8,000 people was held on October 14. Two traffickers apprehended during the operation were sentenced to death and immediately executed, and twenty-two were given prison sentences. At a second public trial on November 12, which 12,000 people attended, five were given the death penalty. Among them was the vice director of Pingyuan township and the general steward of the local mosque.33

Significantly, low-level officials in Yunnan were kept in the dark when the operation was planned in Kunming. Now, as researcher Zhou Yongming points out in his study of anti-drug campaigns in China, the old power structure that had made Pingyuan uncontrollable was dismantled and replaced by a new one: “The authority of the government and regaining control of the local government materialized in the process of the drug crackdown. The Resident Committee, Village Council, Security Committee, and Women's Association-organisations that had not been able to be established before—were set up.”34

Seen in a broader perspective, the Pingyuan operation shattered a network of contacts that had been in charge of drug distribution in the entire region. It is always sensitive, and often misleading, to talk about ethnic organized crime because such labels tend to demonize a whole group of people rather than a few ‘bad apples.’ Still, members of the Hui community had long been some of the most critical players in cross-border trade in the Golden Triangle. Called Panthay in Burmese and Jin Haw in Thai, they see themselves as descendants of Kublai Khan's horsemen. Many have the family name Ma or horse and have for centuries been the region's best muleteers. In the past, they had not only been the primary buyers of Wa opium. Still, they had also conducted mule caravans that carried all kinds of contraband between the Wa Hills, northern Shan State, southern Yunnan, and even north Laos and Vietnam.35 In more recent times, they have turned to modern means of transport, such as lorries and other motor vehicles. But the network of contacts throughout the region has remained more or less intact.

The Pingyuan operation became a turning point in China's policies towards the ex-CPB forces in northeastern Burma. Bao Youxiang and other UWSA, MNDAA, and NDAA (ESS) leaders were summoned to Kunming and read the riot act. No drugs were to enter China. The central authorities in Beijing also began to take a more direct interest in the former CPB forces on the other side of the border. It was an issue that could not be left to local authorities in Yunnan’s border counties or even the provincial government in Kunming. It was not only because of the drug issue but was also a question of national security. Chinas southern border had to be secured. Beijing’s security planners also knew perfectly well that Burma was an essential outlet for trade with South and Southeast Asia and the only country to provide China with safe and relatively easy access to the Indian Ocean.

Pan Qi had first articulated that policy in his article in the Beijing Review of September 2, 1985.36 The first border trade agreement between Burma and China was signed on August 6, 1988, at a time when Burma was in turmoil and almost the entire border was controlled by various rebel groups. The 1989 mutiny and the subsequent ceasefire agreements had changed all that, and China soon began to penetrate the Burmese market in a very systematic manner. A network of economic intelligence operatives collected data about the prices and availability of more than 2,000 locally manufactured as well as imported items—medicines, beer, soft drinks, sports shoes, rice cookers, motorbikes, cigarettes, crockery, and so on—and then the same goods were produced much cheaper in Chinas own state-owned or private factories.

Chinese business people moved down to Lashio and Mandalay to supervise the trade, and some of them even managed to buy Burmese identity documents from corrupt local officials. As ‘Burmese citizens, ’ they could purchase property and engage in other activities that are barred from foreigners.37 UWSA and MNDAA soldiers in full uniform could also be seen in Mandalay and other towns, loading their Chinese- made army trucks with goods destined for the Chinese market, and paid for with laundered drug money.

Regardless of the financial basis for those transactions, their involvement in ‘normal’ commercial activities suited the Chinese. They were also able to maintain contacts with the UWSA and other former CPB forces through China’s peculiar foreign policy of differentiating between government-to-government’ and ‘party- to-party’ relations, an entirely artificial concept as the communist party is Chinas only legal political party and as such controls the government. But it means that it became possible for the UWSA to acquire weapons from China at the same time as Beijing maintained cordial relations with Burma’s central government.

Over the years, Chinese weapons transfer to the UWSA has included HN-5A Man-Portable Air Defence Systems or MANPADS, heavy machine-guns, automatic rifles, mortars, artillery, and armored fighting vehicles and other sophisticated military equipment. Among the most recent deliveries are FN-6 MANPADS, 105mm recoilless guns, 122mm howitzers, 107mm surface-to-surface free- flights missiles, Xinxing (‘New Star’) wheeled armored personnel carriers and weaponized drones.38 This is not the kind of kit that falls off the back of a truck or could be supplied by some local PLA unit in Yunnan. The deliveries were almost certainly directed from the highest level in Beijing, and to disguise the origin often shipped into the UWSAs area via Laos.39

In 2007, advisers from the PLA provided training in the use of 122mm howitzers and 130mm field guns in the Lu Fang mountain range west of Panghsang. The UWSAs artillery regiment had been equipped with those weapons with 12.7mm and 14.5mm anti-aircraft guns. Soldiers were mobilized to dig a complex of underground command centers near Panghsang, clearly intended for protection against aerial attacks by the Burmese air force in the event hostilities were to break out.

With new Chinese weapons came smart uniforms, not the baggy, old-fashioned clothes the fighters in the CPB had worn, and discipline within the UWSA was improved. Given the fact that the UWSA had had a ceasefire agreement with the government since 1989; the average age of the soldier was also much higher than in the CPB’s former army, which towards the end was made up of forcibly recruited teenagers because the majority of non-disabled men were either cripple or dead. Most soldiers are conscripted, but that practice is not universal. Children of those who have good relations with the elite might avoid being recruited altogether or end up in more comfortable positions in the army.40

The army has been divided into the northern forces—four brigades and an artillery regiment—and those along the Thai border in the south, consisting of five brigades. The total number of troops is a well-guarded secret, but most outside observers put the figure between 20,000 and 25,000, or possibly as many as 30,000. Those figures do not include reserves and local village militia forces. In addition, there is a police force with 2,500 men, which is responsible for maintaining law and order in the Wa-administered area.41 There are no Burmese government troops anywhere in territory governed by the WCA, and representatives of the central government come only for special occasions, such as in April 2019 when the Wa celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1989 uprising.

The UWSA has become stronger and much better equipped than the CPB ever was. When Aung Min, then a minister in the Burmese president’s office, visited Monywa, a town northwest of Mandalay, in November 2012 to meet local people protesting a controversial Chinese-backed copper mining project in the area, he openly admitted: “We are afraid of China ... we don’t dare to have a row with [them]. If they feel annoyed with the shutdown of their projects and resume their support to the communists, the economy in the border areas would backslide. So you’d better think seriously.”42

By ‘the communists,’ he meant the UWSA and its allies. And he was right. It may not be in China's interest to see fighting and unrest along its southwestern border, leading to a massive influx of refugees into China. In 2015, the MNDAA broke its ceasefire agreement with the government and attacked Burmese army positions in Kokang. It led to a massive counteroffensive, and 40,000-50,000 people sought refuge across the border in Yunnan. But a strong UWSA that sometimes shares its Chinese-made arsenal, which it has acquired through the party- to party relations with China, with other ethnic armies serves as a stick in Beijing’s relationship with Burma. Diplomacy and promises of aid to Burma’s central authorities come under government-to-government relations’ That fictitious division of duties came in handy when China became involved in the Burmese government’s peace process, then-president Thein Sein initiated in 2012. The Chinese could show that they, and only they, would be able to help the Burmese government solve its internal ethnic problems.

The Wa maintains close links with the other former CPB forces in Kokang and Mong La as well as with the KIA, the SSA, and two new ethnic armies, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), a Palaung group, and the Arakan Army (AA), which were formed after the central government launched its peace process. The TNLA and the AA were initially trained by the KIA and later moved to other areas—the TNLA into the Palaung-inhabited hills of northern Shan State and the AA to Rakhine State. Both groups saw action in Kokang in 2015 when the MNDAA resorted to armed struggle against the Burmese army.

The TNLA has grown from a handful of soldiers a few years ago to today's formidable 5,000-strong fighting force. The AA, meanwhile, has also grown from a handful of fighters recruited from among Rakhine migrant workers in Kachin State to an army of between 2,000 and 3,000 today. It has launched a war in Rakhine State, an entirely new front in Burma’s civil war. While the UWSA is not involved in any fighting with the Burmese army, it has supplied the TNLA, MNDAA, and AA with guns, either as gifts or sold at ‘friendship’ prices.43

The UWSA also supplied the SSA with weapons, which enabled it to defend its Wan Hai headquarters in central Shan State when the Burmese army attacked it in 2015. That help was strategic, as the SSA’s areas west of the Salween River are the UWSA’s buffer zone between them and the Burmese army. Were the SSA forced out of its strongholds, it would be easier for the Burmese military to attack the Wa areas east of the river, should the government launch such as offensive.

The attack on the SSA and renewed fighting in Kokang are only two examples of how the government and some of the ethnic armies consider the ceasefire agreements reached in the late 1980s and early 1990s obsolete. The first sign of that came when the Burmese army launched an all-out attack on the KIA in June 2011, just as the Thein Sein government began talking about negotiations with the ethnic armies to find a peaceful solution to the country’s decades-long civil war. Fierce fighting raged for several months in Kachin State. Although the Burmese military suffered massive casualties, it did manage to capture some KIA bases near the Chinese border, in western Kachin State and northern Shan State.

The KIA, however, has not benefited as much as some of the UWSA’s other allies from Wa arms supplies. It got some 0.50-caliber machine guns, ammunition, and two Humvees, but little more than that. The reason could be that the Chinese remain somewhat suspicious of the Kachin, a predominantly Christian people who have reached out to the West, especially the United States, more than most other ethnic armies in Burma. Moreover, in the early 1990s, before the KIA signed its failed ceasefire agreement with the government, it received some support from India, which could also help explain Chinese attitudes towards the group. There is also no way the UWSA can share its weaponry with other groups without at least the tacit approval of China's security services.

Relations with the NDAA (ESS), somewhat strangely considering their shared past, became tense in 2016. The UWSA even sent in troops to take over some of the NDAA (ESS) s positions along what had been a common border. The problems arose after NDAA (ESS) leaders attended peace talks with the government in August of that year. The Wa leaders feared that their allies were on the verge of reaching an agreement with the central authorities that would adversely affect the UWSAs interests. If a peace deal had been struck, the UWSA would have been cut off from roads leading through the NDAA (ESS)’s area to the Mekong River, which forms the border between Burma and Laos. Since the supplies of Chinese weapons usually transit through Laos, that would have been disastrous for the Wa. Since then, UWSA troops have also formed a defensive string of bases around the NDAA (ESS) s area to ensure the group does not step out of line.

The Wa have also continued to flex their muscles in Burma’s legitimate business environment. Researcher Andrew Ong of the National University of Singapore points out in an August 2018 article that the UWSA has business dealings not only with Chinese counterparts, but it has “since the 1990s demonstrated creativity and ability to navigate different routes, markets and investments to buttress its self-reliance. Collaborations between Wa-owned companies and other Myanmar (Burmese) conglomerates point to strong business ties with elites in Yangon (Rangoon) and Mandalay”44 Because any armed conflict with the Burmese military would put such investment in jeopardy, the UWSA is interested in maintaining the status quo rather than actively joining its allies in their fight against the central government. It is a paradoxical situation, but perhaps the best solution, at least for the time being, from a Wa point of view. They have their government running their affairs. Their economy is strong, and their army is sufficiently well-equipped to dissuade the Burmese military from taking action against them. Fighting on other fronts also keeps the Burmese military from even contemplating attacking Wa areas. For the first time in history, the Wa has become a unified nation with its own de facto state. That is no mean achievement by a people who were head-hunters until only a few decades ago then used as little more than cannon fodder for fulfilling the dream of a group of Burmese communists whose language they do not even speak.


1. Interviews with former CPB cadres in Yunnan.

2. Interview with Aung Gyi, Rangoon.

3. For an account of Olive Yang and her exploits, see Bertil Lintner [1994] (2011), Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press (1994), pp. 100, 155, 186-87, 297, 376, 414, and fourth edition (2011), Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, pp. 120,190, 230-31.

4. For instance, see The Working Peoples Daily, Rangoon, April 23, 1989.

5. Interview with Ai Pao, Wa leader in exile in Thailand, Chiang Mai.

6. Soe Tun Ni, All that glitters is not gold-2,5 The Working Peoples Daily, May 10, 1989.

7. The Working Peoples Daily, December 5, 1989.

8. See, for instance, (accessed January 25, 2020); and Paul Keenan (2008), By Force of Arms: Armed Ethnic Groups in Burma. New Delhi: Vij Books India, p. 72.

9. For those agreements, see, and

10. Washington: US State Departments International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (April 1993), pp. 262-64. Available at InternationaLNarcotics_Control_Strategy.html?id=kVnkAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y 

11. Drug Enforcement Administration, Intelligence Division: “Drug Intelligence Brief: The Price Dynamics of Southeast Asian Heroin,” (February 2001), p. 3.)

12. For details about the locations of those laboratories, see Bertil Lintner (1993) “The Politics of the Drug Trade in Burma,5 Occasional Paper no, 33, Indian Ocean Centre for Peace Studies, University of Western Australia, pp. 50-57, and Bertil Lintner (1991), 'Cross-Border Drug Trade in the Golden Triangle (S.E. Asia),5 Territory Briefing no. 1, International Boundaries Research Unit, University of Durham, UK, p. 12 (map.)

13. Sarassawadee Ongsakul (2005), History ofLanna. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, pp. 30-32.

14. Alfred McCoy (2003), The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. New York: Lawrence Hill Books, p. 440. See also Tom Kramer (2007), The United Wa State Party: Narco-Army or Ethnic Nationalist Party? Washington; East-West Center, p. 22.

15. See Bertil Lintner and Michael Black (2009), Merchants of Madness: The Methamphetamine Explosion in the Golden Triangle. Chiang Mai; Silkworm Books, pp. 153­54. Those details were obtained from internal Thai police records.

16. Those figures were given to me by Xiao Minlaing, Panghsang, on August 28, 2019.

17. I was able to see this for myself when I visited the Wa Hills in August 2019.

18. Hans Steinmiiller (2020), 'The Moral Economy of Militarism: Peasant Economy, Military State and Chinese Capitalism in the Wa State of Myanmar,5 Social Anthropology (February 4), p. 11. Available at 8676.12755 

19. Ibid.

20. Interview with Xiao Minlaing, Panghsang, August 28, 2019,

21. Chin Ko-lin (2009), The Golden Triangle: Inside Southeast Asia's Drug Trade. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 35, and interview with Xiao Minliang.

22. Chin (2009), pp. 33-36.

23. Bertil Lintner (1994b), Turf War in the Triangle,5 Far Eastern Economic Review (January 20).

24. See Lintner (1993), pp. 31-32, 56, 6o, and Bertil Lintner (1995b), ‘New Menace in the Golden Triangle,5 Readers Digest (December), pp. 23-26. The information in those two publications is based on numerous interviews with local people and international drug enforcement officials.

25. Jake Brunner, Kirk Talbott and Chantal Elkin (1988), Logging Burma's Frontier Forests. Washington: World Resources Institute, p. 21.

26. A Choice for China (2005). Global Witness report, October. Available at https://cdn. (accessed January 15, 2020).

27. Quoted in A Disharmonious Trade: China and the Continued Destruction of Burma's Northern Frontier Forests (2009), Global Witness report, October, p. 12. Available at continued-destruction-Burma's-northern-frontier-forests/ 

28. Song Qingrun (2015), ‘Myanmar Must Restore Peace on China Border,5 China Daily (March 29).

29. See, for instance, Yun Sun (2019), ‘Why China is Sceptical About the Peace Process,5 Frontier Myanmar (October 3). Available at china-is-sceptical-about-the-peace-process (accessed January 15, 2020); and her 2018 paper, Chinas Role in Myanmar's Internal Conflicts. Washington: The United States Institute of Peace, p. 7. Available at files/2oi8-o9/ssg-report-chinas-role-in-Myanmar's-internal-conflicts.pdf 

30. See Bertil Lintner (1995a), ‘The Drug Trade in Southeast Asia5, Jane's Intelligence Review, Special Report no. 5 (April), p. 14

31. Zhou Yongming (1999), Anti-Drug Crusades in Twentieth-Century China: Nationalism, History, and State Building. Lanham: Rowinan & Littlefield, p. 163. See also Bertil Lintner (2011), Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, pp. 400-1.

32. Ibid. p. 401, quoting The People's Armed Police News, December 13, 1992.

33. Zhou (1999)5 p-164.

34. Ibid. p. 165.

35. See, for instance, Andrew Forbes and David Henley (1997), The Haw: Traders of the Golden Triangle. Chiang Mai: Teak House Publications; Chang Wen-Chin (2014), Beyond Borders: Stories of Yunnanese Chinese Migrants in Burma. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; Ann Maxwell Hill (1998), Merchants and Migrants: Ethnicity and Trade among Yunnanese Chinese in Southeast Asia. New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies; and Chiranan Prasertkul (1989), Yunnan: Trade in the Nineteenth Century: Southwest Chinas Cross-boundaries Functional System. Bangkok: Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, 1989.

36. See Part One.

37. See Lintner (1991), p. 25, and Bertil Lintner (1994a), ‘Burma: Chinas New Gateway: Route for Trade, Arms and Immigrants,’ Far Eastern Economic Review (cover story), December 22.

38.  Bertil Lintner (2019), The United Wa State Army and Burma's Peace Process. Washington: The United States Institute of Peace, p. 17. Available at https://www.usip. org/publications/2019/04/united-wa-state-army-and-Burma's-peace-process (accessed January 20,2020); and Anthony Davis (2019). ‘Its party time for Myanmar’s largest armed ethnic faction,5 Asia Times, April 9. Available at https://www.asiatimes. com/2oi9/o4/article/anthony-davis-wa-story/

39. Lintner (2019), p. 15.

40. Hans Steinmliller (2018), ‘Conscription by Capture in the Wa State of Myanmar: Acquaintances, Anonymity, Patronage, and the Rejection of Mutuality,’ Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 61, no. 3, pp. 508-34. Available at http://eprints. 

41. Interview with Xiao Minliang, Panghsang, August 28, 2019. He was unwilling to disclose the number of troops, so the figure 20,000-25,000 is based on observations by political analysts in Rangoon and Bangkok.

42. Min Zin (2013), ‘When the Chinese Press down,5 The Irrawaddy (August 14). Available at press-down.html 

43. Interviews with former CPB members and EAO leaders, Ruili.

44. Andrew Ong (2020), ‘Engaging the UWSA: Countering Myths, Building Ties.’ Available at https://teacircle0xf0rd.c0m/2018/08/20/engaging-the-uwsa-c0untering -myths-building-ties/ (accessed January 20, 2020).


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