The Heat is on Wa
The Heat is on Wa
In an unexpected turn of events, the Wa that had been enjoying special privileges from Rangoon are being put under pressure for the second time in five years, said sources from eastern Shan State.
Since 22 March, when Gen Khin Nyunt, Secretary One of the ruling military council, warned the Wa they could no longer enjoy protection from Rangoon, "the heat has been turned on," according to a border watcher. The first time was in 1997, when the Wa were ordered by Gen Maung Aye to return to their home region along the Chinese border.
On 4 April, Maj Thuta Sway, head of Military Intelligence #24, stationed in Tachilek, challenged the Wa representative, "Would you be able to defend the country, if Burma became a second Afghanistan?"
All ceasefire groups in Tachilek, opposite Mae Sai, were given orders to close their offices before the end of April.
"The Wa have been compliant, much to the surprise of many," said a businessman. "They carried the Burmese order even further by prohibiting all vehicles to stop using SW (Southern Wa) number plates and replace them with those issued by Burmese authorities."
"We also saw many of them leaving Tachilek," he added.
Another source from Mongton reported yesterday of the arrest of Ta Kap, Deputy Commander of Brigade 489, at 02:00 Friday, 5 April, by the Burmese drug officials at his home in Nakawngmu, 27miles north of the Chiangmai border.
Another Wa officer, Ta Khwat, in the same village was informed on the same day that motor vehicles under his charge would also be requisitioned for use by the military from now on. "When the officer's subordinates refused to comply, the Burmese brought in reinforcements. A gunfight followed killing 4 Wa," said the source.
In the past, the Wa would always talk back to local Burmese officials by saying the magic incantation, "If you need anything from us Wa, please ask Gen Khin Nyunt," he explained.
The Wa leaders, according to a border watcher, are in a difficult position, "because they have invested heavily in Burma, and severing relations with Rangoon at this time will certainly result in huge losses."
The latest development also brought speculations that Gen Maung Aye, #2 man in the triumvirate, had gained ascendency over Gen Khin Nyunt, who was credited as being the author of the Rangoon-Wa alliance. A Wa officer in Mongpawk recently told S.H.A.N., "We Wa are like a volley ball. Khin Nyunt tosses us up in the air and Maung Aye smashes us down to the earth."
Gen Maung Aye is due for a visit to Thailand on 23-26 April.
Update: 7 April
The 4 Wa "killed" by the Burmese military were later found alive, although one was surely wounded. Sources said the 4 disappeared for so long that all thought they had been killed.