Wa Rebels to Send Fighters to China for Pilot Training: Reports

A Z-9G helicopter mounting the TY-90 lightweight air-to-air missile. (Photo: http://china-defense.blogspot.com)

RANGOON — The largest ethnic armed group in Burma, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), has selected 30 soldiers to receive pilot training in China, according to members of other ethnic rebel groups who recently visited the Wa headquarters in Panghsang in northern Shan State on the Burma-China border.

The claims are likely to fuel further speculation over whether or not the heavily-armed UWSA have acquired helicopters, as was first reported last year.

A senior officer of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) who visited Panghsang last month told The Irrawaddy that he had been informed of plans to send ethnic Wa fighters to China for pilot training.

“They [UWSA officials] said that they had selected 30 professionals. They will provide them with aviation training. They didn’t say why they will train their soldiers. But, I think they have big plans for military purposes,” said the KNLA officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A military official of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), who also visited Panghsang recently, said the UWSA leadership had made similar remarks indicating that Wa rebels will receive aviation training in China.

The Karen and Karenni rebel sources said they believed that the Wa were in possession of two helicopters, adding that they had seen helicopter landing grounds at UWSA’s headquarters. Both sources, however, said they had not observed any helicopters during their visits.

According to these sources, the UWSA also owns surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles, and a weapons-making facility that produces AK-47 rifles, explosive devices and other military hardware.

In April last year, Jane’s Intelligence Review reported that China had delivered several Mil Mi-17 ‘Hip’ medium-transport helicopters armed with TY-90 air-to-air missiles to the UWSA. Veteran Burma journalist Bertil Lintner reported in June 2013 that “two helicopters are reportedly stationed at a remote location near Pangwei in the northeastern Wa Hills, far from prying eyes.”

In August, a member of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) said that he had seen the helicopters at an UWSA base. The KIO officer said at the time that they were “simple helicopters” to be used for transport purposes and likely to be operated by China-trained Wa pilots who were sponsored by the UWSA to study at Chinese universities.

Both Beijing and the Wa rebels, however, dismissed the report in reactions to the media. Aung Myint, a spokesman for the UWSA in Rangoon, said the claim was groundless as no one in the UWSA could fly a helicopter.

Last October, Sai Sam, deputy commander-in-chief of the UWSA, said, “We don’t have such helicopters. But, we do have one helicopter and a small aircraft without engine in a public park for show.”

UWSA is the largest ethnic rebel group in Burma with an estimated 25,000 soldiers. It signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in late 2011.

When the Burma Army launched airstrikes on KIO positions in late 2012, it was reported that the UWSA supported the Kachin rebels with missiles in order to counter the government air attacks.

The UWSA mainly relies on funding from the regional illicit drug trade for its long-running insurgency. Due to financial connections with UWSA commander Wei Hsueh-kang, 11 individuals and 16 companies in Thailand were labeled as “specially designated nationals” and “blocked persons” by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in November 2005.

17 Responses to Wa Rebels to Send Fighters to China for Pilot Training: Reports

  1. I am not surprise of these double edge Paukphaw. They keep diplomatic relation with us and same time supply weapons and human support to armed groups since our independent. This is what we get from the very first country (Burma) in the world that recognized them as nation.
    Very dirty government but we have to walk thin line or we will become another Tibet.
    We Myanmar need to be united and learn lesson from Tibet. There will be no Shan, Karen, Kachin, Mons, Arakan, Chin and none of us left if we are stupid and fight among us !

    • If the Burman stops terrorizing the ethnic minorities, including the Wa, maybe the Wa will not feel the necessity to hoard big guns. The way the Burman treats the Kachin is really not a good example, especially with the military loud mouth Min Aung Hlaing giving out orders. I bet the Kachin must be wishing they had those weaponry at their disposal.

      • I totally agree with you. Any ethnic should not dominate other ethnics. We should all be equal in federal Myanmar. Burman had been dominating since independent and that should not be the case. If any ethnic wants to leave the union, they should leave in peace and we all should live in peace as neighbours.
        I just don’t accept of this moron conduct my Peking hipocrates. They call us Paukphaw and they stab our back. They think they own our country. They just want to suck all our resources. They don’t give a damn. Look at Myitsone and if you drive from China border to Mandalay, you will see all the land bought by Chinese. They don’t even need weapons as they can buy our government with cash as they are corrupted.
        Our military is not professionals. No loyalty to country. They just loyal to their masters who care only for themselves. But if we are not united and equality amoung us, we will be second class citizen in our own country when the chinese take over our country like the colonial rule of British but much worse ! We should learn “The” lesson once only.

    • If China can guarantee the political rights, self-determination, good education, proper health care, developing on agriculture to the non-ethnic nationalities (which is better than the previous Burmese government and the current Burmese government), why should they care about Burma since it is not helping the non-ethnic nationalities but sucking, oppressing and bullying the non-Barma nationalities and ignore their calls. ???

      • You are right. I am 100% Bamar and I hate the way Myanmar is governed by Bamar majority ethnic. Just because we are numerous doesn’t give us rights to bully and sucks natural resources from other ethnics. We should have federal system with self determination and equality among us.
        I support the “Real” federal union of Myanmar with federal army united to defend our freedom and respect among us (ex: there are more Karen in Arrawaddy than in Karen state, some Shans are treated badly in Kachin state, etc..).
        If chinese take over our country, it will be worse than this Bamar dominated government. “We” all will be second class people and our language and culture will disappear.

    • Even communist Chinese government is way better government than USDP regime. If Mr. Bamar has one single thing to point out from USDP regime achievement for the betterment of the minority ethnics, he can tell us. Communist China invaded Tibet and helps change at least(I do not condone Chinese invasion in Tibet) but Burmese military dictatorship stole/robbed our rights as members of the Union of Burma. Burmese military dictatorship only raped, murdered, tortured and brought every hardship for life. So, as long as you do not know your stepfathers’ wrongdoings to the minorities, I hope it will come back to you in the same way one day.

  2. UWSA Militia is a Chinese doppelganger if Myanmar pledge continue allegiance as Chinese loyal ally which doppelganger will compel us to suck our own blood. please, Myanmar government and truly patriotic people must root-out these evil in our motherland. WA tribe is originated from China and not related form our indigenous people in Myanmar.

    • You donut, wa ethnic are from Mon. The only thing Burmese people know is Burmese and Buddhist, very narrow minded people.

    • Where did you get this information? Many words of Wa people are the same with Chin’s words, Naga’s words and Kachin’s words. Kachin, Chin, Naga and Wa are sharing very close culture and tradition because the Wa people are brothers and sister of Chins, Nagas and Kachins. We do look the same because we are related.

  3. this is how the Wa keeps the Burman at bay, and is able to live in peace.

  4. Wonderful. Min Aung Hlaing declined Suu Kyi’s request to have meeting. So, Myanmar military is still arrogant and still touting guns. Thein Sein is not in control. Myanmar is still under the power of guns and bullets. So, gunship helicopters must be owned by every armed groups to confront the arrogance from Myanmar military. We still have to go a long way to get into a genuine democratic Union of Myanmar. Laying down arms will be a grave mistake.

  5. If this news were to be true and proved it’s true, then, Myanmar Army must crush it and annihilate it in no time! The Union doesn’t need Wa Insurgency!!! Be decisive, Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing!! Otherwise, your name will be tarnished in the anal of history!!!!

  6. i am not sure why we the south-east and east himalayan people (north-east india, burma) including thailand, vietnam, laos… etc. wasting time, energy and money fighting each other. always fighting each other for one or other reason which never ends, inter-state, inter-ethnic groups, inter-villages…. why can’t we start thinking something out of the box to use our available resources, time, energy and money to develop infrastructures like highways, education, health care etc. so that we all can live a better life. let’s stop all these nonsense things. let’s start thinking something good for all of us. why can’t we think of a visa-free super-highways from hongkong-cambodia-laos-vietnama-thailand-burma-india interconnected with super-highways and bullet trains running across length and breadth of this region including shanghai to singapore. let’s work harder and make this region one of the finest place to live. let’s not divide further and further. let’s unite and work together to compete with other developed countries. thanks, AK Meitei, Imphal.

    • yes,you are right. all the eartern Asia ethnics(yellow people) should think these problem.we have same face,nearly same religion(Buddhism).

  7. UWSA will create Wa Airspace Identification Zone someday,I guess.Among the 30 trainees,6 to 10 people would be mechanics,the rest would be pilots,so they need at least 5 helicopters.
    Heard some said..just like Guinea worm disease.

    • Do you think they will stop sending more trainees? You never know how many Helicopters and fighter jets they already have in hand. Maybe brand new ones while USDP got used Mirage Fighter Jets from India.

  8. Spreading conflicts for personal self interests is China’s foreign policy and diplomacy: aka talking from both ends of the stick, which smells which ever way you hold it.

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