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Wa?

November 5, 2009

16676-ssa_troopsThe much-hated, frequently murderous Burmese Army might be about to tango with the Wa Army:

The tensions here might be glossed over by outsiders as yet another arcane dispute in strife-ridden Myanmar between the government and a mistrustful minority, except that the Wa have a well-equipped army of at least 20,000 full-time soldiers — about twice the size of Ireland’s armed forces — and are considered by the United States government as hosts to one of the world’s largest illicit drug operations.  The Wa have a significant arsenal, including about 300 shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, antitank weapons and ample assault rifles and ammunition, said Col. Peeranate Katetem of the Thai Army, who has spent a decade tracking the Wa.

Let’s compare this group to, say, Hizbollah – CFR notes the Iranian-sponsored Lebanese group “consists of several thousand militants and activists,” while the Middle East Quarterly note that:

Experts and analysts generally put the Hezbollah rocket force somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 missiles. The heart of this arsenal remains rooted in Hezbollah’s massive stocks—perhaps 7,000 to 8,000—of 107mm and 122mm Katyusha rockets, virtually all of which were supplied directly from existing Iranian army stocks.

So, the Wa has more men in uniform, as well as high-tech weapons and a mountainous territory to attack and defend from the brutal but poorly-trained Burmese Army.  It’ll be a bloodbath.  This is not to say that the Wa are wonderful folks – much of their economy comes from the drug trade – but I can’t say that I’m really rooting for the tyrants in Rangoon to prevail in this 70 year old conflict.

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