HIGH up in the eastern mountains of Myanmar bordering China, Wa is one of Asia's most remote areas - and not an easy place to grow up.

Cloistered and highly-militarised, Wa's authoritarian rulers have virtually cut-off the region from the rest of Myanmar.
It has a special status within the country - free from the laws of the central- state yet still tethered to the Southeast Asia - nation.

But it looks to China, whose money, weapons and political heft has buttressed Wa's unique status.

Checkpoints lock it off from the outside. Inside, authorities tightly control all aspects of life.

Poverty stalks the mountain zone - with many prodded into massage parlours in the capital of  Panghsang or other shady towns on the Chinese border, while men work on low wages in casinos, restaurants and building sites.

The currency is the yuan and the business language is Chinese - a challenged to many of the other ethnic groups in Panghsang for whom it is not a native tongue.
Then there's conscription, all registered families in Wa must give at least one member to the region's 25,000 strong standing army.

Young boys and girls, some barely teens, sign up. In return they earn around 200 yuan [$30] a month and get free bed and  board.

Regional drug police say the Wa run a narco-stae pumping out the world's largest amount meth, claims local leaders vehemently deny.
Last week they opened their doors for a colourful military parade marking 30 years since they secured ceasefire with the Myanmar army.

It gave glimpses of life on the fringes, just out of reach of the economic big brother China and cut off from Myanmar. [Agencies]

The operational research and publishing on Myanmar's cloistered WA region continues.


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