Myanmar's Wa soldiers' show of force draws thousands

PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

United Wa State Army (UWSA) soldiers yesterday participated in a military parade to commemorate 30 years of a ceasefire signed with the Myanmar military, in the capital of the ethnic Wa, Panghsang, which borders China's Yunnan province. The ceasefire led to the establishment of a special, semi-autonomous zone, marshalled by Chairman Bao Youxiang, chief of one of the world's largest non-state armies. The UWSA has a standing army of 25,000, manufactures its own guns, and conscripts at least one member of each household. "The Wa people are masters of their own destiny," Chairman Bao, flanked by senior Chinese officials, declared in an address to the thousands gathered for the parade. Since becoming a special region, the zone has undergone an economic boom of sorts. It is home to one of the world's largest tin mines and massive rubber plantations. Regional drug cops say it plays a central role in the Golden Triangle narcotics trade, forged over decades of opium production. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2019, with the headline 'Myanmar's Wa soldiers' show of force draws thousands'. Print Edition | Subscribe