Twenty years ago, on April 17, 1989, ethnic Wa troops put an end to the communist insurgency in Burma and established the United Wa State Army (UWSA). With Chinese-donated weapons they inherited from Burman communists, the UWSA became the largest ethnic insurgent army in the country. Following the Wa mutiny, other ethnic armed opposition groups along the Thai border asked the Wa army to join their alliance. Instead, the war-weary Wa leaders decided to accept an offer from the military government for a ceasefire agreement.
This week the UWSA will hold a grand ceremony to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Wa leaders feel that they are doing better than ever before. The Wa region, an isolated and mountainous area in the northern Shan State along the Chinese border, is now at peace, and under the control of a Wa army led by Wa leaders, who are following an ethnic Wa nationalist agenda. Paved roads have been built, linking the major towns in the area, where Chinese-style concrete buildings have replaced bamboo huts. And after decades of international isolation, international NGOs are now implementing community development projects. continue