China Sells Helicopter Gunships to UWSA: Report

A Z-9G helicopter mounting the TY-90 lightweight air-to-air missile. (Photo:

China has allegedly sold helicopter gunships to ethnic Wa rebels who occupy areas of Shan State in eastern Burma, intelligence monitor Jane’s Information Group reported on Monday.

The report claimed China “delivered several Mil Mi-17 ‘Hip’ medium- transport helicopters armed with TY-90 air-to-air missiles to the Wa in late February and early March, according to both Myanmar ethnic minority and Myanmar government sources.”

Bertil Lintner, an expert on Burma and author of Great Game East: India, China and the Struggle for Asia’s Most Volatile Frontier, confirmed the accuracy of the Jane’s report.

Lintner said the Burmese government was moving to gain control of the Shan State Army-North’s mountainous bases on the western bank of the Salween River, for an eventual offensive against the Wa rebels.

“Since the Burmese government signed a ceasefire with the Shan, they haven’t withdrawn any troops, but rather they have reinforced their troops,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, an analyst based on the China-Burma border. “That is not a good sign. So, the Wa wants to prepare [for a possible war].”

The purchase of the gunships is part of Wa moves to make the Wa region more like an independent state, able to project force if necessary.

The United Wa State Army is the largest ethnic armed group in Burma, with an estimated 20,000 well-equipped fighters, and advanced weaponry including surface-to-air missiles.

The Burmese government has carried out an offensive against the SSA-North and Kachin rebels in northern Shan State since mid-April, calling up troops from as far away as Karenni State to back up their forces in Shan State, according to Aung Kyaw Zaw.

Quoting a Wa rebel source, the Jane’s report said “the Mi-17s reached the Wa-administered area by flying across the Mekong River from Lao rather than direct from China.”

Jane’s said five helicopters had been bought, but the Burmese government, which confirmed the deal, said only two aircraft had so far been delivered.

The UWSA headquarters is in Panghsang, northeastern Shan State on the China border, but it has a secondary stronghold in southern Shan State on the border with Thailand.

Burma and the United States have long said the UWSA funds its activities through heroin and methamphetamine production, earning large sums of money through illegal activities.

If the government launches an attack on the Wa, it would be a big war, according to analysts. There have been unconfirmed reports in recent weeks that the Wa have been digging in for a protracted ground war, hollowing out tunnels and constructing fortified positions, according to the sources.

The Burmese government recently bought a number of Mi-24P ‘Hind’ gunships from Russia. The reported sale of the Mi-17s to the Wa, armed with TY-90 short-range air-to-air missiles, would provide a strong deterrent to Naypyidaw moving against the Wa.

35 Responses to China Sells Helicopter Gunships to UWSA: Report

  1. The Wa’s of Burma, in Peace time prepare for War. . Why not, , while some dream, wish The Wa shows– The Way, to an Independent State. If given the cracks emerging– within the stop-go political negotiation process between the Myanmar State and the non-bamar’s- population and their leaders (representatives) Myanmar is a Yugoslvia in the making.

  2. So what is Burma govt action? China is closet friend but what is going on?
    China is power hunger and every where want to be china.
    Think careful and act. One of most corruption country in the world.
    Can make you happy but your people can suffer the whole generation.

  3. Wow..this is crazy..

  4. Just imagine Iran or Saudi Arabia providing weapons to Rohingyas (sorry, Bengalis)! Most Burmese would be very upset but China providing weapons for the UWSA (sorry, PLA-Wa-Division) is considered normal procedure? What about a panel (with Suu Kyi, Zaganar, etc.) reporting on the “Wa problem” LOL

    • Well. you might well get your wish of the Saudi providing arms to Rohingya. KSA has been the top buyer of the US arms for a long time worth in billions of dollars. They are not fighting any wars officially. They must find a place to put those arms to good use. Otherwise, why do they keep buying state of the art weapons years in and out? Police can’t use mobile missile launchers and anti-aircraft guns to stop traffic, or patrol parks or beach fronts.

      So, it would not surprise me at all when I hear a super tanker–registered in some fruit-sounding country and owned by a Saudi–heading toward the western coast of burma, loaded with American arms. Saudi doesn’t give a hoot about Chinese arms, by the way. If the actual head count of Rohingya, as stated in many articles, is really 800,000. that’s a lot of freedom fighters to choose from.

      Wirathu then might end up changing 969 to 786 in fear of reciprocity.

      • You should be careful when you reply directly to someone’s comment.
        I didn’t say I “wish” that Saudi Arabia is providing arms to Rohingya. I was just comparing a hypothetical situation with what is really happening on the border with China. Helicopters or not, everyone knows that UWSA is armed and supported by China (the officers there are mostly Chinese trained).
        My point is about “double-standards” that seems to prevail in Burma.Simply put: Burmese seem to be more tolerant (or shall I say afraid) of the Chinese than of the Muslims. I don’t know why.

  5. China has a history of irresponsible weapons transfers. It continues to supply small arms ammunition to Sudan which has been used in Darfur by security forces and government backed militia groups. Chinese rockets and anti-vehicle mines were supplied to Libya under Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi. Ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar bombs and mortar launchers have been supplied to Zimbabwe.

  6. Nothing to worry. UMAF MIG 29s can make sure Wa pilots do not need to learn how to land their helicopters. A rebel helicopter in our Union’s airspace will not fly for long.

  7. One step to far for China .Blatant divide and conquer tactics. The same tactics used throughout the region. Regional summit needed , as this is invasion by proxy.

    • When the Burmese junta received weapons from China, it was bad news for the ethnics. Now, tide is changing. Ethnic Wa army received special equioments to counter the bullying Burmese thugs.

  8. If rohingya are like WA today,they will not face ethnic cleansing,rohingya ethnic status will not strip.if WA are weak like rohingya in arakan ,Bama will brand them as illegal invader from china, there will ethnic cleansing,genocide against WA by bama army like in Rwanda.So WA need to learnt lesson from arakan, rohingya, and made UWSA strong enough to defend them-self as time and position is right for WA ethnic.Good game for watch.

  9. Burmese government has been building up their arms and never stop doing it.
    Wa people have no choice but to arm themselves for survival purpose.
    They do not have a very good reputation about drug but there’s no choice for them.
    Their survival is vital for the other ethnic minorities in Burma too.
    Go Wa, go go go !!!

  10. Don’t forget the China government fully supported the brutal and sickening regime of Pol Pot for more than 10 years. With the whole world watching as they beat Monks with sticks in Tibet, why should they care if they cause thousands of innocent people to die in Burma by supplying a rogue drug army with heavy offensive weapons?

  11. Selling weapons and helicopters , SAM and training to those UWSA is the work of China vividly can be seen in a panorama silver screen!! I hope when the Myanmar Army Attack the UWSA next year, China voluntery troops will not be participate in that war!! Lets see how China will do that with ASEAN countries with its stance.

    • are you afraid that burmen are about to face someone from the same weight class? Burmen have been fighting below their weight class for a long time. it’s about time someone show up to them and give them a lesson.

  12. Wa did not sign Panglong agreement so legally Wa has a right to do what they like. At least , Wa should protect their women and children from than shwe’s private army rapping and robbing. However , Wa’s land is not natural rich resources , compared to kachin land so Ne win , than shwe neglected wa for a long time. Everybody has a right to have self defense. Bama military thugs never honor the Panglong agreement and bullied and is bullying this Pangling agreement , like a rubbish until now. This is the result of the unethical and immoral behavior from Bama military thugs who is now try to favor navie monks to let them killing local Muslim to get support from naive Burmese. It is too late so let see who will win this war between Wa and than shwe’s private army. I never hear and heard that ethnic invaded Rangoon and Mandalay in history so Burmese people do not fear all ethnics who are living in their own land peacefully and bravely. Than shwe has no Burmese people power but than shwe might make use of DASSK in this ethnic war issue very soon.

  13. Burmese Army can crash Wa for within week if the Government wanted.
    There will be certain backlash on Communist Chinese investment in Burma from Burmese peoples and Burmese Government for Communist Chinese Government’s meddling in Burmese domestic affair if the news was truth.
    Wa definitely can not get independent.

    • It will never happen. Crushing Wa in two weeks? Your father-in-law Than Shwe could not do it. Your stepmother Kyaing Kyaing could not do it. Civil war lasted 60 years and it is now going on. Are you sleeping/going bed with the Burmese soldiers?

    • Well. I remember Thein Sein said the same thing before they started to attack the KIA. Modern war is not just about weaponry. Burmese Army could destroy the headquarter of Wa but that does not mean they’ve won the war.

      By the way, the recent army reinforcement of Burmese Army in Wa region is a very stupid move of the government. Better to draw back their troops from ethnic regions before united ethnic army crash the whole reform process.

    • talk is cheap. I hope burmen generals are as foolish as you sound, and jump on the guns right away. can’t wait to see burmen get their noses thumbed again.

  14. The Chinese did the same with the defunct Burma Communist Party and recently with the Kokang and the disastrous results are still fresh in the minds of the Chinese Communist party. Xi Jiinping and the new leadership in Beijing are rational leaders and in 2013 geopolitical reality of events in Asia, South China Sea and S.E. Asia, these shipment of arms to the WA appears to be “testing the waters” or just playing “local politics” and not in any way a serious intent to have the WA to cross “red lines that the Myanmar Government and the Armed forces will not tolerate to be crossed”. Those line are well registered in the minds of the leadership in Beijing and the WA themselves.

    Moreover in the global geopolitical scheme of things, Myanmar’s current rebalancing of its foreign relations to a more “traditionally neutral stance” was well calibrated and deliberate move that the ASEAN, the two giant neighbors took note in a hurry with the EU and the Americans rushing in to play some kind of a role to remind the new leaders in Beijing that disturbing or upsetting the “status quo” of territorial integrity will have grave consequences. Myanmar government leaders have taken care and very carefully nurtured the relations with all ASEAN, India and China, as well as with the U.S. and EU and Russia. However, there are certain “National Interest and Sovereignty Issues” that the peoples of Myanmar and the Armed Forces will not allow to be violated by any entity or country. It will be aggressively defended.

    Naphetchun MaungSein

    California USA

  15. That is good to prepare for self defence on WA side. Burmese governments are very complicated and not faithful to their promises to all ethnic group. They want to blame that WA gain money from selling drugs. Why not? If the parent is a thief the children will also be thieves according to the character they copy from their parent. I want to support WA to keep going ahead. There are many ethnic groups who want to support you. The world got tired with Burmese government already. That will be better if we work together and beat the government .

    • i agree with you! Every ethnic has a right to have self defense. Wa should protect their own land. Burma government and their army is too stupid, they speak without action. why they attacked to the SSA after signed cease fire agreement????
      Although Wa signed cease fire agreement with government, they don’t believe them. so that Wa already have a good plan to protect their people.

  16. China is not a good neighbour.
    China is a very dangerous country.
    They want money and power.That’s all.
    They have no honesty.

    • Do you call a neighbor country who lended and forgave millions of loan made to the country since U Nu’s era not good?
      Do you call a neighbor who in the fifties and sixties built the badly needed infrastructure of ‘sittaung bridge’, ‘tayin bridge’, ‘sittaung papermill’, salay cement factory, envoy hall, ‘thamadaw theatre’ etc. for free — that still benefitting the country not good?
      Do you call a neighbor whose tens of thousands of soldiers sacrificed their lives fighting to kick the cruel Japs (Mr. Ag San invited btw) out and returned to their country so you can enjoy the freedom from the Jap ruler today dangerous? History is there for all to see if one is willing to study.
      The Chinese want money like anyone else but they work hard for them – not begging, or looking for donation or nationalize or simply loot or colonize like others.
      Who put military bases in hundreds all over the world?
      Just study history hard to see if there is any honesty or integrity to show off before bluffing off.

  17. So what is the different between China government and Maha Bama government? we consider current Burma government as burman government only. they are not representative of the entire people especially ethnic groups. What is happening to our fellow muslim brothers and sisters … it is what i am talking …. the government is not our government…

  18. what is the different between china and buma government. first chinese has their government but buma does not. the current government represent only burman not the entire and every ethnic groups has their own government. and their government is not this one.. see what is happening to our brothers and sisters in centre burma, arakan .. do they represent us? re think about it … everyone … i don’t talk about Wa yet

  19. Go ahead, Wa. The world will support you in defending your territory being attacked by the crooked, most corrupted regime in the world.

  20. Aung thaung tells that killing Muslim issue is conspired by Burmese communist , supported by China. Aung thaung might want to say his next target is local Chinese after nationalizing the local Muslim business. Aung thaung and his USDP wants people power with the making use of naive Buddhist thugs ( out of jealousy and lack of confidence in their own Buddhist religious success) to stir up the religious unrest in Burma. His next target is to all ethnics as well as China with the slogan of ugly, bogus nationalist or sovereignty. Sovereignty issue or Ne win’s immigration law is used in killing Rohingya with success from the support of naive Arakanese nationalist ( DR. Idiot aye ), KO KO Gyi (two zero big watery brain-hydrocephalus) and opportunistic, less experienced politician , Zarkanar.
    Aung thaung irritates the China who unwisely and greedily invests in Burma from the trust of fox than shwe. U pai , cronies and than shwe make big portion of profit but The main investor, China lost lottery ticket although won the first price from than shwe’s shop in Burma. Now, Japan and Korean trust Thein sein for investment. EU and US is going to come in for investment if there is DASSK’s rule of law.
    If Muslim issue is not controlled by authority, Ming aung laing and police chief should resign immediately. DASSK or ming ko naing should take over ming aung laing post ( military commander in chief) because bama military thugs admit that they do not know how to control the situations or unrest in Burma. Otherwise , Burma will be divided North and south very soon. Aung thaung, USDP must know that killing Muslim can not please USA, UK and Europe who are not naive. Instead , Aung thaung creates more enemies for Burmese. Than shwe should not copy Syria leader survival as well as North Korea tactic because China is no longer naive now. Fox than shwe’s psychological tactic is outdated because one famous real Buddhist monk can analyze fox’s behavior easily and readily.

  21. Balancing military power between factions. Who has upper hand? Let China be the umpire and let the Burmese people and ethnics kill each other until Burma becomes part of China. China is trying to make Burma one of her provinces.

  22. When bama military thugs used Indian made weapon to kill Kachin, some Burmese says it is normal. Now , Wa prepares for self-defense with Chinese made weapon, some says it is disturbing, invading , sovereignty, balancing with west influence on Burma and gaining money from drug money. When bama military thugs is killing local Muslim with the arrangement of paramilitary units, what is it call?

  23. wa people are not immigrated from china.they are aboriginal people in the region.shan people are immigrated from china.wa people immigrated into china last century. Even thailand is belong to lawa people.thai people also immigrated from xisoungpanna of yunan province. ok.

  24. pinlong agreement were nullified because excluded wa state. wa people loved for genuine peace and union consolidation. Every saparatists are defined enemies.

  25. The big elephant in the room is the US and Wa is a chess piece for China. As long as Myanmar is not getting too close to the US and has its soldiers in the country, the Wa will be reined in.

    That’s the big power geopolitics of this area and it goes the same with Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and etc.

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