– Tuesday, July 8th
Wild Wa: Wilder
talk and slide presentation by Dr. Ron Renard
Badenoch, Hans Bänziger, Doug
Blaisdur, Bonnie Brereton, John Butt, Martha Butt, John Cadet, Mimi Sae
Pippa Curwen, Louis Gabaude, Jim Goodman, Emma Guegan, Oliver
Reinhard Hohler, Peter Holmshaw, Richard Hudson, Richard Humphries,
Randolph Jennings, Khuensai, Tony Kidd, Siripan Kidd, Konrad Kingshill,
Gerhard Köberlin, Annette Kunigagon,
, Sing Maw Lahpai, Sandi Leavitt, Rebecca Lomax, Maggie McKerron, Brian
Migliazza, Jean-Claude Neveu, Ricky Op de Laak, Jeff Petry, Assoc.
Ploysri Porananand, Joseph Rickson, Samantha, Piya Sansee, Masaki Sato,
Schneider, Clarence Shuttlesworth, Vanvadee Suvatanashaw, Plai-Auw
Umebayashi, Marion Vogt, John Ward, Hanna
Wilder, Brock Wilson.
audience of 48.
of the talk: This
summary was compiled by Ron from, he tells me, 25 pages of
1996, the Wa Authority, in
Special Region No. 2 of Shan State in Myanmar, has been vowing to
opium cultivation to an end in 2005. The
Kokang Authority, in Special Region No. 1, north of the Wa region and
border, has already done so as of 2002. Since
these two regions comprise the major
opium poppy cultivation area
in all of Southeast Asia, this
significant reduction in opium production.
more local importance, this
also represents a significant change in the way of life for the poppy
In the century and a half that opium has been cultivated for cash in
regions, the farmers grew accustomed to the cash the poppy brings and
far less self-reliant. Most only grow
enough rice to survive on for six months and buy the rice for the rest
year from opium sales. They also buy
many other items, from chili peppers to cigarettes.
Kokang has lost more, with few skills or
handicrafts from which they could earn cash.
regions and their peoples
have changed in important ways since they started growing opium poppy. Both regions are characterized by steep
limestone hills, reaching to some 3,000 meters, and narrow valleys
paddy rice can be grown. Most of the
farmers in the both regions subsisted on swidden rice agriculture prior
establishment of poppy as a cash crop in the late-19th
centuries, at least during
the approximately seven centuries since the Shan moved into the area,
Tai-speakers lived in the valleys while Wa lived in the hills. Especially in the south of the Wa region
other highland groups have settled including the Palaung, Lahu, Kachin,
change to this pattern
occurred in the 17th century. At that time, a powerful
Ming loyalist, Yang Gao Sho, fled first from Nanjing
during the Dynasty’s breakup at the hands of the Manchus who were
establishing the Ching Dynasty. Yang Gao
Sho later moved southwest from Kunming
area east of the Salween
that is now known
as Kokang. Just managing to stay free of
the imperial grasp, Kokang and the ruling Yang family remained
through World War II, both from the government and from other power
centers. Kokang was only being integrated
mainstream of national life in the 1950s and even then incompletely
there was little Myanmar
cultural or political influence in Kokang. Over the years, Kokang had
predominately Chinese. Since the 1960s,
the Kokang Chinese
comprised 94 per cent of
the population, living in both the highland and lowlands.
the 1960s, Kokang leaders
revolted against the Myanmar Government in a rebellion that lasted
March 1989 when a new generation of rulers, under the leadership of
Sheng, rebelled against the then governing
Communist Party (BCP) and signed a peace agreement with the
Kokang was given the status of Special Region No. 1 under the control
Kokang Authority. Infighting within
Kokang in the 1990s gave the government the opportunity to intervene
and thus gain some control over and influence over the Region. Despite this,
Kokang is still a special region with its own administration and army.
officially about 106,000 but records are incomplete; authorities
if transient residents, including Chinese living in urban areas, were
the total would be about 200,000 for a population density of 80 people
square kilometer. Because of the absence of a satisfactory health
infrastructure, no family planning services are available, fertility is
and roughly half the people are under 15 with the average household
seven people. A rough estimate would
suggest that the population of Kokang was perhaps 60-70,000 in 1989 and
been growing at (the exceptionally high rate of) about 4-5 per cent
the cease-fire, Kokang’s
main city of Laukai,
located in the southeast of the Region, developed.
The urban area has expanded and the
marketplace has grown to several times its former size as many of the
Chinese settlers have opened businesses or work for others here. A diesel-fired electrical generator has been
installed along with city water works and other utilities.
The cobblestone streets have been paved and
telephone and other communication facilities as well as a local
station have become operational. The rapidly growing population is
straining the ability of the Kokang Authority to provide food and other
necessities to the people.
have been established. The first was a
primary school that became a middle school in 1995 and a Myanmar Government Basic
Education High School in 2000.
Quite a few Kokang people have gone elsewhere in Myanmar
for further study and a number have also gone to China. Nevertheless, the level of education remains
low and the number of highly trained Kokang natives is small.
the a near dual
administration in place amid the heavy Kokang Chinese influence, the
is constrained with what it can do for a population in which hardly
speaks the Myanmar language. Although
this will change over time, at present this impedes technical and
development in many sectors.
observed that “You cannot
imagine how poor the people are” in Kokang. To promote employment
for the local people, the Kokang Authority has allowed numerous
casinos and small games of chance operators to open, catering to
across the nearby border checkpoints with China.
However, the low educational level among the
people of Kokang resulted in approximately 80 per cent of the casino
being also from China. Karaoke bars, massage parlors, and other
nightlife businesses have been established in Laukai and other Kokang
much so that they dominate the downtown streets.
for the Wa, by their
cease-fire agreement that was negotiated with the government in 1989,
Authority, under Bao Yu Chang, directly control the Region, operating
its Central Authority with branches including Agriculture, Treasury,
Politics (including education), and External Relations.
Another administrative section controls the
Wa military that comprises several brigades stationed at strategic
throughout the Region.
Wa lived isolated in the
rugged hills of their region for centuries until the Burma Communist
(BCP) set up operations there in the late-1960s. As many Wa put it
BCP “liberated” them from internecine rivalries and
through the use of severe interventions) while also promoting unity
Wa. Many people in the Wa Region joined the BCP
in fighting the Myanmar Government for so long that the Chinese way of
eventually became a model for Wa leadership. During
these contacts, the Chinese leadership
imbued today’s top-ranking
Kokang and Wa officials with a top-down worldview rooted in macro-level
approaches now ironically mostly outdated in China itself.
Wa live mainly in the
Region’s north, with the sacred lake in Long Tan considered their
birthplace. By comparison, in the south,
where the UNODC Wa Project is being carried out, only 30 of 336
Wa. The total population of the Wa
Region is about 600,000. The population density is low; only 24 persons
found per square kilometer in the Wa Region, not even one-third that of
Kokang. As with Kokang, the population
is growing rapidly and half the population is under 20 (and maybe
Wa Authority has been eager
to invest in macro-level projects such as rubber plantations and
factories as well as a tin mine and a paper factory (using bamboo as
material) that they hope will give their people alternatives to
opium cultivation. Unfortunately,
however, these ventures have often failed to meet their goals due to
of technical expertise on the part of the Wa or because of insufficient
assessments. The Wa have also built roads, hydroelectric plants,
facilities, and other infrastructure developments.
Big cities like Pang Sang and Mong Mau are
becoming increasingly urbanized and a middle class is emerging there.
making a living
after opium will challenge the Wa. Few alternative sources of income
the people. Water sources are scarce as
are persons with skills appropriate for alternative development. In this remote region, no outside agency can
offer significant assistance and efforts so far to create local
not met with much success. Markets are
remote from both the Wa and Kokang and political issues can complicate
villagers face major changes
as the transition to the post-opium era moves inexorably forward. Without significant assistance from outside,
becoming opium-free is certain to victimize the growers in both the Wa
the question and
answer session, the meeting adjourned to the Alliance Cafeteria where
of the audience engaged Ron in more informal discussion over drinks and