News / Asia

    With Burma in Mind, China Quietly Supports Wa Rebels

    Armed soldiers from Burma's United Wa State Army shown riding a vehicle in neighboring China's border town of Mangka, September 3, 2009.
    Armed soldiers from Burma's United Wa State Army shown riding a vehicle in neighboring China's border town of Mangka, September 3, 2009.
    Daniel Schearf
    While Burma's military steps up battles against Kachin rebels along the border with China, security analysts say Beijing has been quietly selling advanced weapons to another insurgent group on its border, the United Wa State Army.  The Wa are the largest militia in Burma and considered the biggest narcotics dealing organization in Southeast Asia. 
     
    Burma's military airstrikes and mortar attacks on Kachin rebels in recent weeks raised international concerns about the government's peace efforts. The heavy fighting in Burma's north is the worst since a 17-year cease-fire with the Kachin Independence Army broke down in 2011.
     
    But while China calls for military restraint in Kachin state, security analysts say Beijing has been secretly arming another rebel group, the United Wa State Army.
     
    In a December report, IHS Jane's Intelligence Review says China last year provided the Wa with advanced weapons to build up their defenses. The transfers included surface to air missiles and, for the first time, at least 12 armored vehicles the report refers to as "tank destroyers."
     
    Thailand-based security analyst and author of the report, Anthony Davis, said Beijing is trying to balance historic camaraderie with the Wa and its relations with Burmese authorities.  
     
    "The Chinese cannot afford to ignore the ethnic forces along their border, nor at the same time can they afford to ignore the central government," Davis said. "Is that to say that China is directly supplying that equipment? No, it's not. Clearly the supplier of that equipment is known to senior elements in the government, but that is not to say that they are directly involved in financing. They need to maintain a degree of deniability here," he said.
     
    China's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the IHS Jane's Intelligence Review report.
     
    The Wa are Burma's largest rebel group, estimated at up to 30,000 full and part-time fighters.  Despite its professed policy of non-interference, military analysts say China has long been the largest supplier of weapons to the Wa, albeit unofficially.

    The Wa were one of several ethnic militias that formed after the 1989 breakup of the Burmese Communist Party.

    Beijing directly supported the communists and maintained relations with the newly formed rebel groups.
     
    Yale University Ph. D. candidate Josh Gordon said China has been particularly close with the Wa, who speak Chinese. The Wa are more or less a proxy of China, said Gordon.

    "You'll use Chinese money, Chinese cell phones, Chinese electricity for in large part, where there is electricity in the urban areas, and have connection to the Chinese Internet," he said.
     
    Burma signed a cease-fire with the Wa in the 1990s and allowed them to govern their own territory in northeastern Shan state. They turned it into one of Asia's largest methamphetamine production bases and are considered the region's largest drug-dealing organization.
     
    The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in 2011 put most-wanted pictures of Wa leader Wei Hsueh Kang in Thailand's entertainment venues.
     
    Despite the recent escalation in Chinese weapons transfers to the Wa, Davis said Beijing is not trying to destabilize the border area. Instead, China is sending a message to Burmese authorities not to even think about attempting in Wa territory what they are doing in Kachin state where local groups are fighting Burmese forces, he said.
     
    "The Chinese are not stoking fires in Northern Burma.  By reinforcing the Wa they are reinforcing a military deterrent.  If you like, they are reinforcing peace and stability which has existed for the last 20 years in a manner that's been favorable to China."
     
    During past decades of military rule and western sanctions, China held great sway over Burma and its natural resources. But since Burma's reform-minded President Thein Sein took office, and sanctions were suspended, China's influence is being thrown off balance.
     
    Davis said the weapons tranfers to the Wa appear to be China responding to its political reversals.
     
    Ye Htut, a spokesman for Burma's president, declined to comment on the report by IHS Jane's Intelligence Review.
     
    "We don't have any information on that," he said. "But, every time the Chinese government assures us they will not interfere in our internal affairs.  So we accept their assurance."
     
    China this month sent a high-level military delegation to Burma to discuss border security issues and the fighting in Kachin state.  The official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the Chinese agreed not to interfere with Burma's internal problems.

    You May Like

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    China Seeks On-Off Switch for Internet

    Public asks whose security is cybersecurity law aiming to protect

    UN Human Rights Chief: Burundi May Explode Into Ethnic Violence

    Burundian government accuses the UN of a campaign of distortion

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Tun Tun Oo from: Yangon
    January 26, 2013 1:10 AM
    Now, Myanmar Tatmadaw(armed forces) has stopped its operations in Kachin State and government also offered for the peaceful negotiations. But KIA forces are still making attacks on Tatmadaw and capturing innocent local peoples and force them to serve as KIA troops. I think there may be many persons who want Kachin State to be battle field for their benefit and instigating behind the KIA.

    by: Wangchuk from: NYC
    January 25, 2013 5:03 PM
    The PRC is the biggest hypocrite. When the US or EU or UN merely criticize China for its human rights violations in Tibet & Xinjiang, the CCP says they are interfering in China's "internal affairs." Yet here is a case where the PRC is interfering directly in Burma's internal affairs by supplying weapons to a rebel group operating within Burma's borders. For the PRC, it's do as a I say, not as I do.
    In Response

    by: Ian from: USA
    January 27, 2013 3:38 PM
    I would like to ask Mour a question regarding his statement:
    " the Burmese who interfere in China "
    Which chinese ethnic rebel group inside China's border whom the Burmese instigate to rise up against bejing government or demand to be separate from China .
    Please name one chinese province that the burmese manipulate .
    I am quite sure that The communist government in China had use ethnic chinese in other countries in the past for its own gains (regardless of the consequence that these people may have to face when the host countries decide to retaliate )
    One example is Bejing supported the Khmer rouge leaderships (almost all of them are ethnic chinese) who commited genocide in Cambodia ( that was the reason they did not hesitate to kill one third of the cambodians)
    In Response

    by: Mour
    January 26, 2013 11:56 AM
    The west complained when China allegedly ignored human rights being broken by the Burmese government. Now the west complains about China supporting ethnic minority rebels against the Burmese government. The burmese government under Ne Win also massacred ethnic Chinese in the 1960s and attacked ethnic kokang chinese in 2009. Its the burmese who interfere in China,
    In Response

    by: Banlas from: Asia
    January 26, 2013 8:21 AM
    China, a hypocrite for supporting the rebel in Burma, Please wake up from your hallucination that the honor for the biggest hypocrite should go to UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. U.S has been nurturing and supporting all kinds of terrorists in Middle East, Asia (including the exile Tibetans), Africa, Latin American for ages.
    In Response

    by: Paris Tun from: Myanmar
    January 26, 2013 8:08 AM
    We ( Burmese people) can testify to the fact that Chinese Communist regime is the most shameless hypocrite in the world.Not only did they interfere in our affairs, but they also insult us by vetoing the release of our democratic leader Daw Su Kyi and other educated and outspoken political prisoners. By doing so, they effectively made us voiceless and powerless. I just want the world to know that the Communist regime stroke us with its evil hands and cruel enough that they never apologize for their behavior. The sad thing is the Chinese regime is "still" insulting people's rights and hopes by watering and feeding the poisonous trees, such as Kim Jung Un regime. That is the perfect insult on human liberty and rights.
    I just hope that the educated Chinese middle class will tame the behavior of their blind and sick leaders.

    by: Stefan from: Southeast Asia
    January 25, 2013 12:02 PM
    Trust your friendly neighbor, the Chinese. Thailand take note.
    In Response

    by: Niqqa Prairs from: The Mighty US
    January 27, 2013 9:34 PM
    Funny thing's that China has hosted the peace negotiation meetings between the two groups, while U.S on the other hand, has sent KIA equipments and ammunition. Ironic isn't it. People should really do more research before believe in a governmental funded media.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora