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The Wa: the food, the drugs, the helicopter

When I was in Yangon recently, I went with some friends to 'Root', a restaurant and bar that serves Wa cuisine. It was a really good experience - if I was giving it a rating, it would be 5*. The food was really nice, well presented and just spicy enough for me. There was also a very good range of vegetarian options.

During dinner, my friends and I started talking about the Wa. Personally, I find the Wa quite fascinating, for a number of reasons, not just because their food is really tasty.


Read the article below and identify the following statements as True, False or Not Given.

  1. The author believes the Wa government may offer a model for a federal system in Myanmar.

  2. The author thinks some other EAGs would want an army similar to the Wa army.

  3. The term 'Golden Triangle' is used quite specifically to describe an exact geographical location.

  4. The drug trade in the Golden Triangle was established by Chinese.

  5. The Wa is involved in the production and distribution of opium.

  6. The Wa have announced that they have purchased a helicopter from China.

  7. The Myanmar government now possesses a helicopter to used by cabinet ministers.

  8. A government minister was injured in a helicopter on February 19.


Firstly, of all the 'insurgent' ethnic groups in Myanmar, the Wa appear to be the most organised and the most stable. They seem to have an arrangement with the government that guarantees them autonomy (= self government) and a certain level of official recognition. They appear to have a well functioning system of governance which addresses many of the educational, health and housing needs of their people. I can't help but wonder 'are they the future of federalism in Myanmar?'.

Secondly, related to this, they have the largest, most well trained and equipped army of any of the armed groups. Which I bet is the envy of many of the other EAGs. The UWSA's estimated 30,000 soldiers and sophisticated military hardware were on show during. a parade in April last year.

Then, there's the drugs. While they may not be happy with the association, it's there nevertheless. Physically, the territory of the Wa, like smack-bang in the middle of the Golden Triangle, an area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong river. The name "Golden Triangle" is commonly used more broadly to refer to an area of approximately 950,000 square kilometres (367,000 sq mi) that overlaps the mountains of the three adjacent countries. This has been an area of major opium production since the 1950s when the relatively new Chinese Communist Party drove both drug producers and users south of the border into the Golden Triangle region.

And now, news reports that they have a helicopter! Which, the Wa are insisting, is only for “personal and leisure use.” The Wa are not divulging any information about the mysterious helicopter, but local news sources have reported the aircraft is Chinese made and was purchased in September 2019.

And, on the subject of helicopters, the Myanmar government is due soon to take delivery of its first ever helicopter in April (while there are plenty of military helicopters, none are dedicated for the use of the civilian goverment). It is currently being assembled in Malaysia and once operational will be used by cabinet ministers during emergency response activities following natural disasters.

The helicopter, which can seat 15 people and cost US$14.35 million, will be used to provide a safer means of transport for ministers. Boarding military choppers has left political leaders vulnerable recently, especially when flying over restive areas where ethnic rebels and the Myanmar military are clashing. On February 19, a military helicopter carrying a Myanmar Union minister and the Rakhine State chief minister came under fire.

When you're ready, enter your answers in the test sheet below.


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