The United Wa State Army (UWSA) may currently be the strongest opposition armed movement, but its leadership is seriously considering whether it should accept a Burma Army run People’s Militia Force (PMF) status, according to insider sources.
The difference between a Border Guard Force (BGF), a status that Wa and other major armed groups had turned down in 2009, and a PMF is that where as a BGF is administered by Burma Army officers, a PMF is both commanded and run by native officers. Both BGFs and PMFs come under the supervision of the Burma Army’s PMF and BGF Directorate.
“We have been discussing it,” admitted one of the senior (not top) officials told SHAN. “But we have yet to come to the final decision.”
A report predicted 2015, the year of the next general elections, might also be the day of reckoning for the UWSA.
This was despite the fact that, compared to 2009, the UWSA is in a state of greater readiness for combat, following re-organization, training and massive accumulation of weapons and ammo. The reason, sources agree, is Wei Xuegang, Wa commander who is wanted by both Thailand and the United State on drug charges.
“If Than Shwe is the power behind the throne in Naypyitaw,” said an insider, “it is Wei in the case of Panghsang (the Wa capital on the Sino-Burmese border).”
With the ailing supreme leader Bao Youxiang no longer running the day-to-day affairs, the 66 year old Wei is reportedly becoming more and more powerful each day. But if former Shanland United Army (SSA) officers, who used to know him during the period when they worked together under the late Khun Sa (1934-2007), are right, Wei is not reaching for the stars. “He’d rather have someone working as a front for him,” said a source living in retirement in Chiangrai. “One thing he always hate is personal publicity.”
That does not mean he is out of the picture in the drug business. One reliable report has his younger brother Wei Xueyun, acting commander of the 171st Military Region along the Thai Burmese border, opposite Maehongson, Chiangmai and Chiangrai provinces, and himself exercising monopoly over the UWSA drug business. They purchase huangpi (heroin # 3) from PMFs and BGFs in Kayah (Karenni) and Shan State South and East to be refined into heroin # 4 in a factory not far from Panghsang. Another factory is also said to be located in Mongton township on the Thai-Burmese border.
But individual dealers and producers are severely punished by the group.
“We, the lower level officers and men, are really concerned about our future,” said an officer. “What’s going to happen to us and our people, after Chairman Ta Pang (Bao Youxiang’s Wa name) is no longer with us?”