Wa State (Wa: Meung Vax; Chinese: 佤邦; pinyin: Wǎ Bāng; Burmese: ဝပြည်နယ်) is an autonomous region within Myanmar (Burma). It is de facto independent from the rest of the country and has its own political system, administrative divisions and army. However, Wa State recognises Myanmar's sovereignty over all of its territory, and has, in return, been granted a high level of autonomy by the central government in Naypyidaw. Under the 2008 Constitution of Myanmar the region is designated as the Wa Self-Administered Division of Shan State. As a one-party socialist state ruled by the United Wa State Party, Wa State is divided into three counties, two special districts, and one economic development zone. The administrative capital is Pangkham, formerly known as Panghsang. The name Wa is derived from the Wa ethnic group, who speak an Austroasiatic language.
("I love Wa State")
Wa State, as claimed by the UWSP (green),
within Myanmar (dark grey).
and largest city
|Recognised national languages||Wa|
|Recognised regional languages|
|Ethnic groups||Wa, Han, Dai, Lahu, Akha, and others|
|Government||One-party socialist state|
• Vice President
• Independence declared from Myanmar
|17 April 1989|
• Autonomy granted by Myanmar
|9 May 1989|
• Creation of the Wa Self-Administered Division
|20 August 2010|
|30,000 km2 (12,000 sq mi)|
|32.8/km2 (85.0/sq mi)|
Thai baht (south)
|Time zone||UTC+06:30 (MMT)|
|Calling code||+86 (0)879 (north)|
+66 (0)53 (south)
Politics, society and law
Wa State is divided into northern and southern regions which are separated from one another, with the 13,000 km2 (5,000 sq mi) southern region bordering Thailand and consisting of 200,000 people. The total area of the region controlled by Wa State is 17,000 km2 (6,600 sq mi). The political leaders of Wa State are mostly ethnic Wa people. The Wa State government emulates many political features of the government of the People's Republic of China, having a central committee and a central party known as the United Wa State Party. Whilst Wa State is highly autonomous from the control of the central government in Naypyidaw, their relationship is based on peaceful coexistence and Wa State recognises the sovereignty of the central government over all of Myanmar.
The working language of the Wa State government is Mandarin Chinese. Southwest Mandarin and Wa are widely spoken by the population, with the language of education being Standard Chinese. Television broadcasts within Wa State are broadcast in both Mandarin and Wa. Commodities within Wa State are brought over from China, and the renminbi is commonly used for exchanges. China Mobile has cellular coverage over some parts of Wa State.
The legal system in Wa State is based on the civil law system, with reference to the laws of China. However, there are still struggle sessions (公判大会), which have been abolished in China. After being sentenced to death, prisoners will be directly sent to the execution ground.
For a long time,[timeframe?] headman tribes were dispersed around the Wa mountainous area, with no unified governance. During the Qing dynasty, the region became separated from the tribal military control of the Dai people. British rule in Burma did not administer the Wa States and the border with China was left undefined.
From the late 1940s, during the Chinese Civil War, remnants of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army retreated to territory within Burma as the communists took over mainland China. Within the mountain region Kuomintang forces of the Eighth Army 237 division and 26th Army 93 division held their position for two decades in preparation for a counterattack towards mainland China. Under pressure from the United Nations, the counterattack was cancelled and the army was recalled to northern Thailand and later back to Taiwan; however, some troops decided to remain within Burma. East of the Salween river, indigenous tribal guerrilla groups exercised control with the support of the Communist Party of Burma.
During the 1960s, the Communist Party of Burma lost its base of operations within central Burma, and with the assistance of the Chinese communists, expanded within the border regions in the northeast. Many intellectual youths from China joined the Communist Party of Burma, and these forces also absorbed many local guerrillas. The Burmese communists gained control over Pangkham, which became their base of operations.
At the end of the 1980s, the ethnic minorities of northeast Burma became politically separated from the Communist Party of Burma. On 17 April 1989, Bao Youxiang's armed forces announced their separation from the Communist Party of Burma, and formed the United Myanmar Ethnicities Party, which later became the United Wa State Party. On 18 May, the United Wa State Army signed a ceasefire agreement with the State Law and Order Restoration Council, which replaced Ne Win's military regime following the 8888 Uprising.
Tensions between the central government and Wa state were heightened in 2009. During this time, peace initiative proposals by Wa State were rejected by the Myanmar government. The government warned on 27 April 2010 that the WHP program could push Myanmar and Wa State into further conflict.
Wa State is divided into counties (Wa: gaeng; Mandarin: 县), special districts (Wa: lūm; Mandarin: 特区), an economic development zone and an administrative affairs committee. Each county is further divided into districts (Wa: vēing; Mandarin: 区).
(lūm / 特区)
(laih / 街)
|Economic Development Zone (经济开发区)|
(gaeng / 县)
(ndaex laih / 街道)
(yaong / 乡)
In the table above, names in apostrophe are in Wa/Dai/Mandarin order. Avenue (ndaex laih / 街道) is found only once in Mong Maoe County; town (镇 / “jēng”) is found only once in Mōung Ping EDZ. Avenues and streets are metaphorical urban-type division name analogical to subdistricts of China and should not be understood literally. They are further subdivided into groups. Villages are rural counterparts of groups and are below townships. In southern Wa, townships are given the township identity (乡) according to their Mandarin name yet not subdivided into villages with their Wa names indicate they are natural settlements (yaong / 寨), but might be a part of compound like ndaex eeng yaong XX (XX-settlement township / XX寨乡).
In general, the Wa names of divisions follow the Romance naming order. For example, Vēing Yaong Lēen means Yaong Lēen District and is a vēing (district) instead of a yaong (natural settlement). That of the town of Mōung Ping in Mōung Ping EDZ is an exception – it follows the Germanic naming order as "Mōung Ping Jēng" instead of "Jēng Mōung Ping". In the Wa language, x at the end of a syllable represents a glottal stop.
In the sections below, names in bold indicate county seats. Names with "quotation marks" are pinyin transcriptions of Mandarin while names in italics are Burmese transcriptions of Mandarin. Although Mandarin is one of the four working languages of Wa State, some Mandarin administrative names are non-canonical. For example, 班阳区 and 邦洋区 are two different transcriptions of the same official Wa or Dai name of Pang Yang District.
Wa State's northern area is divided into three counties, two special districts, and one economic development zone. Each county is further divided into districts; there are 21 districts in total.
- Mong Maoe County:
- Nax Vī (Nawi) District,
- Mōuig Nū District ("Gongmingshan"/Kaung Ming Sang District) and Mēng Hmae Avenue
- Bang Vāi District ("Shaopa" District),
- Dāoh Mīe District ("Gemai"/"Kunma" District),
- Yaong Lēen District,
- Ndūng Ngid ("Longtan") District,
- Qeng Mīang ("Yancheng"/Yiang Chen) District,
- Gon Māe("Yingpan"/Yin Pan) District,
- Man Doun District,
- Mōuig Raix ("Lianhe") District,
- Glong Ba District
- Mōung Nēng County, formerly Vēing Gāo County:
- 12. Man Sīang District,
- 13. Noung Kied District,
- 13.1 Noung Kied Township, 6 villages
- 13.2 Si Lōg Township, 4 villages
- 13.3 Ndaex Gaeng (Vēing Gāo, Weng Kao, Wein) Township, 8 villages
- 13.4 Noung Lai Sing Township, 8 villages
- 14. Ba Lēen (Nāng Kang Vū) District,
- 15. Nax Gāo District,
- 16. Bāng Yāng (Pang Yang) District
- Mōung Bōg County:
- 17. Nām Pad District,
- 18. Mōung Bōg District
- 19. Mōung Ning District,
- 20. Mōung Ga District,
- 21. Houx Dao (Hotao) District
- Special districts
- Pangkham Special District (Lūm Bāng Kam): "Guanghong" (Guang Houng) Township, Na Lod Township, Man Pad ("Nanpa") Township, Dōng O Township, Yaong Dīng Township, Man Mao Township
- Nām Dēeg Special District: Mgōng Lang (Nām Dēeg) Township and Nām Dēeg Street, Yaong Mox Township, Bīang Krom ("Bangkong") Township, Da Ai Township, "Lufang" Township, Nām Vēing Kam Township
- Mōung Ping Economic Development Zone, formerly Mōung Ping District of Mōung Bōg County: Mōung Ping Town, Mōung Ping Brim Township, "Donglong" (Dōung Lōung) Township, Yaong Krom ("Tuanjie") Township, Bāng Sax Jax Township, Kox Song Township
Wa State overlaps with seven de jure townships designated by the Burmese government. The geographic relationship between districts (second level) and special districts (first level) of Wa State and districts of Shan State are listed below:
Wa State's southern area is not part of traditional Wa territory, but was granted in 1989 by the then-ruling Burmese military junta for the UWSA's cooperation in their efforts against drug warlord Khun Sa. These territories were originally inhabited by the Austroasiatic Tai Loi peoples, but now include significant Lahu and Shan communities.
It is administrated by the Southern Administrative Affairs Committee (Wa: Mēng Vax Blag Jō): Wan Hoong (Mgōng Sam Soung) District, Huix Ox District, Yaong Kraox ("Kailong", Yaong Mgōng) District, Yaong Bang District, Mōung Jōd District, Yaong Mōuig ("Menggang"/ Num Mōuig) District, Kax Nax ("Huyue") District. Kax Nax ("Huyue") District seems to have been merged into Wan Hoong (Mgōng Sam Soung) District.
Geography and economy
The region is mainly mountainous, with deep valleys. The lowest points are approximately 600 metres above sea level, with the highest mountains over 3000 metres. Initially Wa State was heavily reliant on opium production. With Chinese assistance, there has been a move towards growing rubber and tea plantations. Wa State cultivates 220,000 acres of rubber. Due to the resettlement of residents from mountainous areas to fertile valleys, there is also cultivation of wet rice, corn and vegetables. Dozens died during the resettlement due to disease and road accidents. Wa State is economically dependent on China, which supports it financially and provides military and civilian advisors and weapons. It shares 82 miles (133 km) of frontier with China.
Illicit drug trade
This section possibly contains original research. (February 2020)
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) was previously the largest narcotics trafficking organization in Southeast Asia. The UWSA cultivated vast areas of land for the opium poppy, which was later refined to heroin. Methamphetamine trafficking was also important to the economy of Wa State. The money from the opium was primarily used for purchasing weapons.
In August 1990, government officials began drafting a plan to end drug production and trafficking in Wa State. According to an interview with Wa officials in 1994, Bao Youyi (Tax Kuad Rang; also known as Bao Youyu) became wanted by the Chinese police for his involvement in drug trafficking. As a result, Bao Youxiang and Zhao Nyi-Lai went to Cangyuan Va Autonomous County of China and signed the Cangyuan Agreement with local officials, which stated that, "No drugs will go into the international society (from Wa State); no drugs will go into China (from Wa State); no drugs will go into Burmese government-controlled areas (from Wa State)." However, the agreement did not mention whether or not Wa State could sell drugs to insurgent groups.
In 1997, the United Wa State Party officially proclaimed that Wa State would be drug-free by the end of 2005. With the help of the United Nations and the Chinese government, many opium farmers in Wa State shifted to the production of rubber and tea. However, some poppy farmers continued to cultivate the flower outside of Wa State.
Although the Burmese government has begun taking measures to decrease the production of such drugs, it is an arduous task due to corruption at high levels in the government and a lack of infrastructure to carry out operations. In 2005, Wa State was declared by the UWSP a "drug-free zone" and the cultivation of opium was made illegal.
A BBC presentation aired on 19 November 2016 showed the burning of methamphetamine, as well as a thriving trade in illegal animal parts.
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