After Chinese Arms Allegations, UWSA Shows Off ‘Thai’ Military Hardware

A pictured published in the state-run Myanma Ahlin on Tuesday purportedly shows a helicopter purchased by the United Wa State Army (UWSA). (Photo: Myanma Ahlin)

The rebel United Wa State Army (UWSA) has reportedly purchased an engineless helicopter and Fokker aircraft from Thailand, with the armed group planning to place the military hardware in a Shan State national park to “raise general knowledge among local people.”

Burma’s state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper said on Tuesday that the UWSA revealed the acquisition, which also included an unspecified “water craft,” during a trip by a government peace delegation. The report comes in the wake of allegations last month that Chinese-supplied helicopters had made it into UWSA hands.

“We bought an old helicopter that doesn’t even have the engine or the tail boom, a small Fokker plane that also doesn’t have the engine and a water craft from Thailand,” Xiao Mingliang, vice chairman of the UWSA, was quoted as saying last Friday. “We just bought them so our people can gain knowledge.

“Compared to other areas, our area, which is known as the Shan State Special Region 2, has seen less development in past years. That’s why we’re planning to build a national park, to raise general knowledge among local people.”

Other than describing the provider as “from Thailand,” Xiao Mingliang failed to specify the exact source of the military hardware.

In addition to reportedly being engineless, a picture of the purported helicopter published in Myanma Ahlin shows the aircraft without a tail.

The visit to Shan State by the government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee was led by its vice chairman, Thein Zaw, according to the report.

Xiao Mingliang’s explanation of the helicopter’s purpose was at odds with a UWSA soldier at the group’s liaison office in Lashio Township.

“We’ll use it so our soldiers can study the aircraft during military training,” the officer told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

Another soldier from the same office in Lashio said the aircraft would only be placed on display at a museum and did not serve any sort of training purpose.

The news comes amid renewed speculation that the Chinese are supplying arms to the UWSA, Burma’s largest armed ethnic group commanding some 20,000 troops in eastern Shan State.

A report on April 29 from IHS Jane’s, a defense and intelligence think tank, said the UWSA had purchased an undetermined number of Mil Mi-17 “Hip” medium-transport helicopters from China that were armed with TY-90 air-to-air missiles.

Jane’s cited both Wa and government sources as verifying the purchase, though the Wa source said five choppers had been purchased while the government source put the number at just two. The think tank said the helicopters, received in late February and early March, would act as a “serious deterrent” to Mi-24P “Hind” helicopter gunships recently acquired by the Burma government from Russia.

The report was refuted by the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon.

“The Embassy would like to express deep dissatisfaction over the repeated publication of unfounded information by the parties concerned as it will not only mislead the readers from Myanmar and abroad, but also discredit the strong efforts by the Chinese side to contribute to the peace process in Myanmar,” it said in a statement on May 7.

The “repeated publication” was in reference to a previous report from Jane’s in December 2012. That report, which the embassy has also categorically denied, alleged that the Chinese had supplied surface-to-air missiles and 12 tank destroyers to the UWSA.

“As a close and good neighbor of Myanmar, China has always played a constructive role for promoting the peace process in Myanmar by repeatedly calling and facilitating the realization of a long-term and complete cease-fire by a peaceful resolution of disputes and differences through political dialogue,” the embassy added.

Wa sources also told The Irrawaddy last week that the helicopter report by Jane’s was false.

That stance was reaffirmed by Xiao Mingliang on Friday, according to Myanma Ahlin.

“I don’t know how news was carried by the JIR [Jane’s] that we have acquired five helicopters armed with air-to-air missiles,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Intermittent fighting broke out in Shan State in early April between the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) and government forces, with the fighting expanding to include an offensive against the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) last week.

The offensive in Shan State, contravening a ceasefire agreement signed between Naypyidaw and the Shan rebels, was aimed at gaining control of strategically important bases on the Salween River for a future attack on the UWSA, Shan and Kachin rebel sources told The Irrawaddy earlier in May.


9 Responses to After Chinese Arms Allegations, UWSA Shows Off ‘Thai’ Military Hardware

  1. buying the empty bodies of helicopter and air plane is just illogical. It’s time to weigh about UWSA’s attitude and take proper action. There must be only one government and one army in Myanmar. If the president U Thein Sein government could not handle this problem, then, better resign from the posts.

    • You wish, Nyunt Shwe. As long as the Burmese regime does not respect the Panglong Agreement Treaty, ethnics will have to keep their armies. Ne Win and Than Shwe did not win by killing ethnics. Thein Sein will not win for sure. The only victory will be only when Union of Burma becomes the real Union of Burma.

  2. Thein sein and than shwe copied the tactic from USA that Iraq Saddam Hussein had weapon of mass destruction so Than sein and thein sein with faked Monk, Wirathu will invade Wa very soon for political gain as well as business gain to nationalize Wa’s Business and their belonging.

    • If they do, I’m sure they’ll find out that Wa are not Rohingya. Wa are much disciplined, and martial since their birth. I can foresee tons of casualty on the burman’s side. Thein Sein may have to resign as the president who can’t win a war. History is never kind to lackey leaders. Burmese history is filled with kings who abdicated their reign in disgrace.

  3. The armed groups like the UWSA are trying to defend off the invading Tatmadaw (Burmese Army) that is determined to marginalize the people of Shan State and other boarder areas. President Thein Sein will never have control over the resistance groups until Burma proper starts to recognize the spirit of the Panglong agreement and move forward from there. I suspect that empty bodies of helicopters are just to create confusion over the UWSA true military hardware assets. We should pray for and support the ethnic plight otherwise the Burmese Army will continue to invade their land while committing genocide and extorting their resources.

  4. If we can built the trust and better relation over the other ethnic resistances,UWSA will become to follow like others. But now GOV have handful of crisis to deal.Gov nor UWSA should not push the tension to out of control.Open confrontation not going to benefit nether of party.

    • Dear Moe
      One word from bama government is enough to get the trust and better relationship from all ethnics that is bama military thugs will honor Panglong agreement as well as all ethnics without signing Panglong agreement ones such as karen ,Wa and etc sincerely.
      All ethnics no longer trust any types of cease-fire agreement without the condition of honoring Panglong agreement. General Aung san’s kyat slogan has been smeared since U nu until now. U nu’s faked or favored Bama union of Burma-constitution was written by 2 bamars, not including all ethnics.
      Then, dealing with all Chinese , Thailand , EU businesses on the ethnics’ land and natural resources are only concerned with respective ethnics. Those are not concerned with Bama military thugs and bama people. Because all profits of Businesses from Rangoon and Mandalay are never give benefit ( any cent of money) to all ethnics from now and then and in history as well.
      Business discussion with China , Thailand and EU or etc on ethnic lands and resources must exclude inclusion of bama military thugs.
      If bama has Buddhist teaching , bama should support the offer of compensation incurred by the abuse of Panglong agreement , done by faked Buddhist-U nu , notorious Ne win and fox than shwe.
      In the context of honoring Panglong agreement again , China, US, EU, Russian and Japan must be included. If Bama military thugs declare that Panglong agreement is not or was nor fair for Bama , the appearance or honor or belonging of photo of General Aung san is illegal in Burma. If bama does not recognize Panglong agreement , all ethnics will be happy to accept that all are free to be chosen for their own ruling and autonomy.
      China , Thailand, French, all businesses dealing on ethnic lands must exclude bama military thugs.

  5. Burma’s military is in a stage of developing conspiracy theory by paying others to say that UWSA is purchasing war helicopter from China. Obviously, military government wants to use armed forces and invade UWSA territory, in stead of constitutional reform to grant ethnic people equality and self-governing. All media that publicize those fake news are apart of conspiracy acts. They got paid by the Burma’s military and other interest groups. Burma’s military will continue using this tactic as a way to kill ethnic political agendas completely. Genuine political transition will be hard to believe ever….! People will keep seeing these confusing medias ever …! There are people who will develop these types of tactic for their own interests and survivals. Honesty is not the best living practice in this world….!

  6. If I were Wa leader and then I’ll said we bought 10 Mil Mi-17 “Hip” and hidden in under ground or cave. Journalists and other organizations must aware about they were using as propaganda tool for to spread rumor and propaganda by some groups.
    To be honest, we have been using International Medias to spread rumor and given misinformation for to pressure on Government since we fled Burma. I don’t blame journalist for hunting easy meal for their job because like this news is not easy to get it because Wa territory is difficult to reach by foreigner journalists unless Wa leader invite them to come via Yunnan, China into their territory.
    Communist Chinese Government will not be daring to sell heavy weaponry and Helicopters to Wa or Kokang. Communist China has investing heavily in Burma and they can not afford to make Burmese Government upset.
    Communist Chinese leaders know Burma is very important partner as strategic and business for their country. Also Burma needs Communist Chinese co-operation in border area with China.
    Also both countries have share many ethnics in both sides of border. We can not hate and reject Communist China investment in Burma because of Communist Chinese Government support former dictatorship Than Shwe regime.
    Some peoples are pointing finger at Wa ethnic peoples and Kokang ethnic peoples as mainland Chinese and spread rumor as mainland Chinese invasion in Mandalay.
    The mainland Chinese merchants come to Mandalay by special Visa which was issued by Burmese border immigration. They are not foolish enough to cross border with proper Visa and brought huge money to buy Jade and other Gem in Mandalay. Wa ethnic and Kokang ethnic are not Chinese national in fact they are one of 135 Burmese ethnics. They were living in Shan state before Pagan kingdom conquered Shan Kingdom.
    Journalists should be aware of they were using as propaganda tool for to spread their fabricated story by some of the groups.
    Now IHS Jane’s Information Group and Intelligence Think Tank will be embarrassing by reporting wrong news on Wa Army buying Helicopters and other weapons from China.
    They should check it thoroughly before publishing news.
    US and its alliances went to war in Iraq on base on Iraqi defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi fabricated story of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories. In the end, there are no mobile bioweapons trucks and factory was found in Iraq. However, his goal was succeeded and Sadam Husein regime was gone.
    I do not deny International Medias have played the role in changing dictator Than Shwe his hardline attitude against opposition group. Burma is changing country and we do not need to use international Medias as our propaganda tool for now. Anyway, thank you very much for helping Burmese peoples.

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