Thursday, September 3, 2009



The Kokang and Wa regions of the Shan State of Myanmar predominantly consist of non-Han tribals of Yunnanese origin, who are to be found on both sides of the Sino-Myanmar border like the Lishus and the Kachins in the Kachin State of Myanmar. This is also the area into which a large number of KMT troops----consisting of Han Chinese as well as non-Han ethnic recruits from Yunnan--- had crossed over after
the communists captured power in China. While a large number of them were evacuated to Taiwan in the 1970s, many settled down in the Kokang and Wa areas, married locally and raised families.

2. The inhabitants of the Kokang and Wa areas were largely Christians like the non-Han tribals of the Yunnan province of China unlike the Shans of Myanmar who were largely Buddhists. Before 1949, many American Baptist missionaries used to work among the non-Han ethnic groups in Yunnan----like the family of Rev.Joseph Morse. After the Communists captured power, these missionaries and their Lishu and other
supporters crossed over into the Kachin State, while the KMT remnants crossed over into the Kokang and Wa areas of the Shan State.

3. Before they were evacuated to Taiwan, the KMT stragglers, as they were called, actively collaborated with the US intelligence in destabilisation activities in Yunnan. The US intelligence also used the native inhabitants of the Kokang and Wa regions for its destabilisation operations in Yunnan. Many recruits from these areas trained and armed by the KMT stragglers used to indulge in hit and run
raids on Chinese border posts in the Yunnan province.

4. Their harassing attacks were countered by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) by raising a force called the North-East Command headed by Capt.Naw Sang, a Kachin ex-serviceman of the Myanmar Army, who had deserted and took political asylum in Yunnan. This force,which had not only non-Han ethnic recruits from Yunnan, but also Han ex-servicemen from the PLA, infiltrated into the Kokang area and
occupied it in 1968-69. A large number of PLA troops entered the Kokang area after the so-called North-east Command had occupied it and started confronting the KMT stragglers in the Kokang and Wa regions.

5. There were also many clashes between the PLA and the Myanmar Army when the latter tried to eject the North-east Command from the areas occupied by it. After the US established relations with China in the wake of Henry Kissinger's famous visit to Beijing when Richard Nixon was the President, the US agencies discontinued their destabilisation operations in Yunnan and pressured the KMT stragglers, who were no longer of use to the US agencies, to opt for resettlement in Taiwan. Once the majority of the KMT stragglers chose to be repatriated to Taiwan, China discontinued its support to the North-East Command of Naw Sang and the PLA troops which had entered the Kokang and Wa regions withdrew into Yunnan.

6. Some KMT stragglers, who had refused to shift to Taiwan and settled down in the Shan State, became the hard-core of the narcotics and jade smugglimg groups operating from the Golden Triangle area. Opium used to be grown in the Kokang and Wa areas, converted into heroin and smuggled to other countries via Thailand. The withdrawal of the PLA troops and the members of the North-East Command did not lead
to the re-establishment of the writ of the Myanmar Army in these areas, which became almost semi-independent under the control of heroin and jade smugglimg mafia groups. In recent years, these groups have also become producers and smugglers of synthetic drugs, which are causing havoc on public health in many countries of the world, including in the Manipur State in India's North-East.

7.The US has been greatly concerned since the 1980s over the extent of the drug production and smuggling from these areas. A lot of these drugs manages to find its way into the US streets.Even though the US continues to maintain a diplomatic presence in Myanmar, bilateral interactions are practically non-existent for nearly 20 years because of the various sanctions imposed by the West against the military junta in a futile attempt to make it stop the suppression of political dissidents and release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

8. Despite this, the US authorities in charge of action against narcotics production and smuggling continue to maintain a discreet, but vigorous interaction with their Myanmar counterparts. US funding is also available----despite the economic sanctions---- for the eradication of narcotics production and smuggling from the Kokang and Wa areas. Though some action was taken by the Junta in this regard, Washington
has not been totally satisfied. The US suspects that many Myanmar Army officers have been in receipt of money from the narcotics lords of the Kokang and Wa regions and, in return, have been closing their eyes to narcotics production and smuggling.

9. In recent weeks, the junta, which is keen to take advantage of the opening provided by reported re-thinking in the Barack Obama Administration about the wisdom of continuing to keep the junta in the dog house, has been paying greater attention to the US concerns over narcotics production and smuggling from the Kokang and Wa areas. It is reported by sources in this region that it is this which led to
military action by the Myanmar Army against narcotics production in the Kokang area in the last week of August,2009, which led to the exodus of nearly 40,000 tribals and Han Chinese from this region into Yunnan. The fighting between the Myanmar Army and Kokang militia units, which reportedly lasted about three days, has since stopped and the refugees have started coming back into the area from the camps
in Yunnan, where they had been accommodated by the Yunnanese authorities.

10. The Chinese, who continue to be as active as before in Myanmar and are busy constructing oil and gas pipelines from the Arakan area of Myanmar to Yunnan and reportedly also a port to which Chinese oil and gas tankers could come, will have reasons to be concerned over reports of a likely thaw in the relations between the US and the junta. A resumption of US assistance to Myanmar and a consequent
increase in the US presence in Myanmar---- particularly in the areas bordering Yunnan--- will worry the Chinese authorities. The Chinese, who make no secret of their concerns over what they perceive as increasing Indo-US naval cooperation in the Indian Ocean region, will be monitoring closely the developments in the US relations with Myanmar. An additional fear for them will be that if there is a normalisation of the US-Junta relations, that could contribute to a convergence of Indo-US strategic objectives in Myanmar.

11. This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of August 15,2009, titled MYANMAR: ANOTHER INSTANCE OF OBAMA'S REALPOLITIK at ( 4-9-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )




Thousands of residents of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province of China----most of them Han Chinese but also including some Uighurs working for the Government--- took to the streets in different parts of the capital on September 3,2009, to protest against the failure of the security authorities to stop mysterious attacks with hypodermic syringe needles on the back which have been taking place in different
parts of the city since August 17,2009, and arrest those responsible. Ultimately, the crowds dispersed when the local authorities appealed to them to go home.

2. There have so far been no reports of any fatalities due to these syringe attacks, which seem to have caused only minor injuries to the persons----some of them school-going Han children--- attacked. There is no reason to suspect the use of poison at the tip of the needles.

3. The repeated attacks with the syringe needles have been accompanied by isolated incidents of stabbing of Han Chinese as well as Uighurs working for the local Government. There is considerable panic in the city.

4. There is spreading anger amongst the Han residents of Urumqi not only against the local authorities, but also against Beijing for failing to ensure the securitry of the people since the anti-Han riots of July 5/6. They allege that there has been no improvement in the security situation even after the visit to Xinjiang towards the end of last month by President Hu Jintao to discuss with the local authorities measures for stepping up security and for protecting the Hans from attacks by the Uighurs.

5. Even though the local authorities claim to have arrested over 20 persons in connection with these mysterious incidents, the attacks continue to take place. Many parents have not been sending their children to schools due to fear of their being attacked.

6. While the authorities seem to be clueless as to who are behind these attacks, local sources suspect that the pro-Al Qaeda Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET), which operates from North Waziristan in Pakistan, is behind these attacks. This seems to be a new modus operandi being used by Al Qaeda elements in Xinjiang, which brings to mind a similar MO which was being used by the Bulgarian
intelligence agencies, when Bulgaria was under communist rule, to get rid of anti-communist political dissidents, who had taken shelter in West Europe.

7. People are nervous that the persons behind these mysterious attacks might start using poison at the tip of the needles in order to cause fatalities. These attacks started a few days before the Muslim holy fasting period of Ramadan began and are continuing during the fasting period. (3-9-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai,. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )