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Cease-Fires With Drug Armies

Individual Documents

Title: Whither the Wa?
Date of publication: October 2005
Description/subject: Statements of intent aren’t enough to make the UWSA respectable... "This year’s international anti-drugs day was supposed to be a special occasion for the United Wa State Army, reputedly the world’s largest armed drug trafficking group. The shadowy outfit, said to control a sizeable portion of the Burmese sector of the Golden Triangle, was supposed to announce in front of some 200 diplomats, aid workers, journalists and anti-narcotics officials at its Panghsang headquarters on the Sino-Burmese border that the organization has officially kicked the habit. Opium would from now on be prohibited in the UWSA-controlled region, officially known as Special Region 2. The UWSA planned to announce that this past season was the last opium harvest for the poor farmers who for generations had grown poppy because there was nothing much else they could cultivate in this mountainous region. Hundreds of invitations were sent out to various international agencies and VIPs, but there was one slight problem. The language wasn’t right. The Burmese government didn’t have anything against the fact that the invitation cards were written in Chinese. What irked the generals in Rangoon was that the invitation for the event, which was supposed to coincide with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26, explicitly stated that the host of this event was the “Government of the Wa State.” For the generals in Rangoon, there is only one government in Burma. And so they called off what was to be an historic event for the Wa and possibly a turning point in the history of Burma’s opium politics. The wording on the invitation cards was the UWSA’s way of telling the junta that Special Region 2—together with areas along the Thai border that they had taken from former drug warlord Khun Sa after they defeated his Mong Tai Army in 1996—was their turf..."
Author/creator: Don Pathan
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 13, No. 10
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 30 April 2006