Wa National Organization Denies Involvement in Drug Trade

By Saw Yan Naing 27 June 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The Wa National Organization (WNO), the political wing of an ethnic Wa armed group, has announced that it had no involvement in the actions of one of its former leaders, Ta Ma Ha (also known as Ma Ma) who was arrested in Chiang Mai for drug trafficking last week.

Ta Ma Ha, the vice-chairman of the WNO, was arrested in Chiang Mai with 10 kilograms of pure methamphetamine, 7.5 kilograms of raw opium and 26,400 methamphetamine pills on June 21.

Thai police officials from the Office of Narcotics Control Board also said they seized 6.8 million baht (nearly US$200,000) in cash during the arrest.

In a statement released by the WNO on Sunday, the organization said it has no “links” with the drug seizure and the drugs did not originate from territories under its control, claiming they came from Chiang Dao town in Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand.

The WNO also said Ta Ma Ha has had no contact with the organization for five months, and due to this they temporarily suspended him from his position of vice chairman during an emergency meeting on May 2-3.

Maj Ta Aik Nyunt, general secretary of the WNO, told The Irrawaddy on Monday, “We dismissed him [Ta Ma Ha] and removed him from all of his positions because he violated our rules [against drug trafficking].”

“He often visited Chiang Mai and didn’t inform us. He just said he was visiting his relatives. He didn’t tell us about his recent trip,” said Ta Aik Nyunt.

The statement said the WNO enforces a ban on illicit drug trading and has been working on anti-drug trafficking campaigns in its territories with its ethnic allies as well as Thai anti-drug trafficking forces.

It also said the WNO has a policy to warn, suspend and dismiss its members who abuse power, violate the ethics of the organization or engage in any activities that would damage their image.

The WNO is a member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed organizations who are engaging in talks with the Burmese government but have not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), a peace deal signed last year under the former government of President Thein Sein.

The WNO’s Ta Aik Nyunt also said he had not received any comments from the UNFC, but his organization plans to apologize for its former vice-chairman’s actions.

“We will apologize to them because [the arrest] also damaged their image. We feel sad and are sorry for what he [Ta Ma Ha] did,” said Ta Aik Nyunt.

One of the WNO’s previous leaders, Mahasang, was also arrested in Chiang Mai for participating in the illicit drug trade and died in prison.

The WNO’s military wing, the Wa National Army, operates in northern Shan State and near the Thai-Burma border.