Wa States

   A region of northeastern Shan State, between the Salween (Thanlwin) River and the Chinese border, south of Kokang and northwest of Keng Tung, which is the homeland of the Was. With an area of about 6,000 square miles, one-tenth the area of Shan State, it is extremely remote and mountainous. Neither the British nor the governments of independent Burma succeeded in imposing effective control. According to James George Scott, writing in 1906: "the Wa States are . . . not administered, and not very thoroughly explored, but the boundary has been mapped and notified to the Chinese Government" (Burma: A Handbook of Practical Information, [1921] 1999, 2). Once the Communist Party of Burma established its headquarters at Panghsang on the Chinese border in 1968, the Wa States felt the impact of war and heavy Chinese influence. Until recently, the core of the Wa States, an area of about 2,600 square kilometers (1,000 square miles), was inhabited by the "Wild Wa," a fierce group of headhunters who lived in well-fortified hilltop villages and were ruled by ramang (chiefs), the heads of a confederation of three or four villages. Beyond this, there appears to have been no stable political organization, making the term "states" rather misleading. Headhunting seems to have stopped only in the 1970s. In 1989, the United Wa State Army established its headquarters at Panghsang and divided the original Wa States into 11 districts. The area remains one of Burma's poorest and most undeveloped, dependent on the cultivation of opium poppies.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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