Burmese depiction of the Wa in the early 20th century
|approx. 1.2 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
The Wa people (Wa language: Vāx; Burmese: ဝလူမျိုး [wa̰ lùmjóʊ]; Chinese: 佤族; pinyin: Wǎzú) live mainly in northern Burma, in the northern part of Shan State and the eastern part of Kachin State, near and along Burma's border with China, as well as in China's Yunnan Province. Their de facto capital is Pangkham in the unofficial Wa State within the northeastern Shan State.
The Wa were known as the "Wild Wa" by British administrators during Britain's colonial control of Burma due to their practice of headhunting. They were left alone by the British, whose colonial officials steered clear of the severed human heads staking out the Wa hills. Their last reported ritual beheadings were in 1976.
Post World War 2
After remnants of Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese Nationalists fled the 1949 communist revolution, the Wa took up arms and in 1968 became the backbone of the Communist Party of Burma's militia, with opium sales paying for a steady supply of Chinese arms.
After a new international border was defined between Burma and China in the 1960s, the Wa people have been divided between Burma and China. In 1999 the Wa were recruited by the former Burma's military junta to wage a proxy guerrilla war against ethnic Shan rebels on the Thai border.
During the 1990s, the United Wa State Army was one of the world's largest narco-armies, with up to 10,000 men under arms. During the 1990s they were principally involved in heroin production. During the 2000s, the United Wa State Army shifted focus into amphetamine production.
Records of official seizures compiled by the United Nations suggest that in 2006 Myanmar was the source of half of Asia's methamphetamine, or yaba, as it is known in Thailand. Most of the drug labs are under Wa control, experts believe.
In China, the Wa live in compact communities in the Ximeng (in Wa: Mēng Ka or Si Moung), Cangyuan, Menglian (Gaeng Līam), Gengma (Gaeng Mīex or Gaeng Māx), Lincang (Mēng Lām), Shuangjiang (Si Nblāeng or Mēng Mēng), Zhenkang, and Yongde counties in southwestern Yunnan Province in China. Their population in China is estimated at around 400,000.
The "Benren" 本人 of Yongde County and Zhenkang County, Yunnan are officially classified as Wa by the Chinese government, but consider themselves to be a separate ethnicity from the Wa. Their autonym is "Siwa" 斯佤. The Benren are distributed in:
- Menggong Township 勐汞佤族乡 (recently incorporated into Dejue Township 德党镇), Yongde County: in Menggong 勐汞、Daba 大坝、Songlin 松林、Dapingzhang 大平掌、Hunai 户乃、Xiaodifang 小地方、Lielie 列列. There are 10,289 Benren in the township as of 2010.
- Desili Township 德思里彝族佤族乡, Fengqing County
- Mangka Township 芒卡镇, Cangyuan County
The Wa are one of the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups in Burma. Their proportion to Burma's total population is 0.16. The Wa are also one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by China.
In Burma, the Wa have formed the Wa State, with the United Wa State Army (UWSA), based on the remains of the former Burmese Communist Party rebel group that collapsed in 1989. The Wa State and the UWSA are in a fragile cease-fire agreement with the Burmese military government. They have been accused by Western governments of involvement in drug trafficking but have banned opium production since 2005 and have received United Nations aid in improving legitimate agriculture.
As stipulated by the 2008 Burmese Constitution, on 20 August 2010 the Wa Self-Administered Division has been estabilished. It is set to be administred by the Wa people and its territory is between the gorges of the Mekong and Salween rivers, in the east part of the Shan State, near the border with the Chinese province of Yunnan.
In recent times some Wa communities from Burma have crossed the border and settled in Thailand, where they have no official status as a Hill tribe. They live mainly in the Mae Sai District and Mae Yao subdistrict of Chiang Rai Province.
- "Headhunting days are over for Myanmar's "Wild Wa"", Reuters, Sep 10, 2007.
- Lawa, Western in Thailand
- Chouvy, Pierre-Arnaud & Meissonnier, Joël. "Yaa Baa. Production, traffic, and consumption of methamphetamine in Mainland Southeast Asia". Singapore University Press, 2004. Retrieved 2006-03-13.
- Davis, Anthony (19 November 2004). "Thai drugs smuggling networks reform". Jane's Information Group. Retrieved 2009-03-05.[dead link]
- Zhao Mingsheng, Gao Honghui [赵明生, 高宏慧]. 2012. 佤族支系“本人(佤)”的产生及其特征. http://www.doc88.com/p-212753943335.html
- ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတမြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော် ဖွဲ့စည်းပုံအခြေခံဥပဒေ (၂၀၀၈ ခုနှစ်) (in Burmese) =1|2008 Constitution PDF
- "တိုင်းခုနစ်တိုင်းကို တိုင်းဒေသကြီးများအဖြစ် လည်းကောင်း၊ ကိုယ်ပိုင်အုပ်ချုပ်ခွင့်ရ တိုင်းနှင့် ကိုယ်ပိုင်အုပ်ချုပ်ခွင့်ရ ဒေသများ ရုံးစိုက်ရာ မြို့များကို လည်းကောင်း ပြည်ထောင်စုနယ်မြေတွင် ခရိုင်နှင့်မြို့နယ်များကို လည်းကောင်း သတ်မှတ်ကြေညာ". Weekly Eleven News (in Burmese). 2010-08-20. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- Wa, Parauk
- A Dictionary of the Wa Language with Burmese (Myanmar), Chinese, and English Glosses and Internet Database for Minority Languages of Burma (Myanmar)
- ワ語の発音と表記 (Pronunciation and spelling of Wa; in Japanese)
- The Wa ethnic minority (Chinese government website, in English)
- Wa page from China Style site
- Wa page from Ethnologue site
- The Wa
- A Bibliography of materials in or about Wa language and culture
- Journal of Burma Studies 17.1 (2013), a special issue on the Wa people
- Harvey, G. E. Wa Précis. Rangoon, 1933.
- Lintner, Bertil. Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948. Chiang Mai, 1999.
- Marshall, Andrew. The Trouser People: a Story of Burma in the Shadow of the Empire. London: Penguin; Washington: Counterpoint, 2002. ISBN 1-58243-120-5.
- Mitton, Geraldine Scott of the Shan Hills. London: John Murray, 1936.
- Scott, J. G. Burma and Beyond. London, 1932.
- Scott, J. G. Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States. 5 vols. Rangoon, 1900-1901.
- Winnington, Alan. The Slaves of the Cool Mountains. Berlin: Seven Seas, 1959.
- Winnington, Alan. The Slaves of the Cool Mountains: The Ancient Social Conditions and Changes Now in Progress on the Remote South-Western Borders of China. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1959.
- Fiskesjö, Magnus. "Introduction to Wa Studies." Journal of Burma Studies 17.1 (2013), 1-27.
- Fiskesjö, Magnus. "The autonomy of naming: Kinship, power and ethnonymy in the Wa lands of the Southeast Asia-China frontiers." In Charles Macdonald & Yangwen Zheng, eds. Personal Names in Asia: History, Culture and Identity. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2009, pp 150–74. ISBN 9971-69-380-1.
- Fiskesjö, Magnus. "Slavery as the commodification of people: Wa 'slaves' and their Chinese 'sisters'." Focaal-Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 59 (Spring 2011), 3-18.
- Fiskesjö, Magnus. "Mining, history, and the anti-state Wa: The politics of autonomy between Burma and China." Journal of Global History 5.2 (June 2010), 241-64.
- Fiskesjö, Magnus. "Participant intoxication and self-other dynamics in the Wa context." The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 11.2 (June 2010), 111-27.
- Takano, Hideyuki. "The Shore Beyond Good and Evil: A Report from Inside Burma's Opium Kingdom." Tokyo: Kotan Publishing, 2002. In English.
- Kramer, Tom. "The United Wa State Party: Narco-army or ethnic nationalist party?" Washington, DC: East-West Center Washington; Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2007.
- Kramer, Tom. "From golden triangle to rubber belt?: The future of opium bans in the Kokang and Wa regions." Amsterdam: Transnational Institute, 2009. http://www.tni.org/
- Scott, J. G., and Mitton, Geraldine. In the Grip of the Wild Wa. London, 1913.
- Winnington, Alan. "Kopfjäger" [ins Deutsche übertragen von K. Heinz]. Berlin: Verlag Volk und Welt, 1983. Series: Roman-Zeitung; Heft 398. [German translation of the novel "Headhunters"].