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United Wa State Army (UWSA), the strongest ethnic armed group in Burma Readies for Air Strikes

April 11, 2011
Monday, 11 April 2011 21:01
The United Wa State Army (UWSA), the strongest ethnic armed group in Burma with an estimated 30,000 fighting men, has dug in to their front lines and is currently facing off against troops from the Burmese army.

The Burmese government troops, or Tatmadaw, has dug in around the Loi Pang Hills, near Mang Xiang in northern Shan State. The UWSA is based on the other side of the hills and is reported to be ready for an attack.

Mang Xiang is a small town about 50 miles from Tangyang in northern Shan State; it is the first town on route to Panghsang where the headquarters of the UWSA is located.

An officer from the Tatmadaw who spoke on condition of anonymity said that since the end of March, the government’s representatives have been focusing carefully on their relations with the Wa leadership while both sides prepare for a probable attack by the Tatmadaw.

The Wa army has reputedly built strong defensive lines, fortified with bunkers and connecting tunnels. Their troops have cleared the trees and bushes on the hills where their bunkers are located, making it nearly impossible for government forces to approach the hills.

“We also heard they were equipped with 0.5 machine guns in their bunkers,” an officer said.

He also said that he doesn’t think Burma’s generals will order an attack on the hills by the infantry battalions.

“If we are going to attack them, it will be more effective by air strikes,” he said. “From the air, we have a clear view of their bunkers. We don’t have to worry that the shells will explode on Chinese soil because it is too far away. We are just waiting for the green light.”

According to the military officer, at least three battalions from Tang Yan are based in the Loi Pang hills, and the troops are also preparing to deploy 81 mm cannons.

The UWSA is preparing its defenses against possible air strikes by deploying machine guns and SAMs (surface-to-air missiles).

A Wa officer from No. 418 battalion told The Irrawaddy: “We can’t underestimate the government forces. They could easily attack us from the air.”

A Burmese military officer from Takawek Bridge Security Unit said that many officers from Nos. 99 and 33 Infantry Divisions are in favor of taking over the Wa’s Panghsang headquarters.

Nos 99 and 33 Infantry Divisions played a major role when the military regime defeated the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in 2009.

“Many officers from 99 and 33 became rich after they attacked the MNDAA, and now they want to control Panghsang” the officer said. “From my point of view, it will not be as easy as they think. The troops of the MNDAA and the UWSA are so very different.”

The New Light of Myanmar, one of Burma’s state-run daily newspapers, reported after the attack that 26 government troops were killed and 47 wounded during the attack on the MNDAA. The Irrawaddy


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