Insurgent Political Culture and the Prospects for Peace: The United Wa State Army in Myanmar

Due to the tightening of social distancing measures in response to COVID-19 pandemic, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute will be changing the format of our seminars to webinars with immediate effect.

The seminar on “Insurgent Political Culture and the Prospects for Peace: The United Wa State Army in Myanmar” by Dr Andrew Ong will now be held as a webinar.

For participants who have registered for the seminar, we seek your understanding to register again using the steps at the bottom of this notice to access the webinar this coming Friday morning.


About the Webinar

In April 2019, Myanmar’s largest armed insurgent group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), celebrated its thirtieth anniversary by parading its own artillery and armed drones, all whilst flying the Myanmar flag and pledging allegiance to the state. The group has a reputation for narcotics trafficking and for being a “spoiler” in the Myanmar peace process, as its 30,000 troops keep the state at bay from its stronghold on the border with China, it runs its own administration, and it maintains discreet external relations. The UWSA declares non-secession and support for the Myanmar government but refuses to disarm or sign the stalled Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

Political science framings of conflict economies and of rebel governance have shaped the perspectives of international observers on the UWSA. These perspectives have led observers to dismiss the group as a “proxy” of China, a “quasi-state”, or belligerent “druglords” and thus to approach peacebuilding with limited imagination. Drawing on 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Wa Region, I examine how Wa political culture and its understanding of the political world shape the UWSA’s relations with Myanmar, China and the international community. I lay out a set of considerations for engagement with the UWSA and the implications of those considerations for the peace process in one of the world’s longest-running civil wars.

About the Speaker

Andrew Ong is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore. He earned a doctorate in social anthropology at Harvard University in 2018. His research interests include political autonomy, borderland economies, development and humanitarianism, insurgency and peacebuilding. He is currently completing a book manuscript with the working title, “Stalemate: Autonomy and Insurgency on the Myanmar-China Border”.


Join us by 4 simple steps below:

Step 1: Set up a Zoom account. Sign up for a Zoom account using your email, using the following link:

Step 2: Register for the Webinar using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection:

Step 3: A confirmation email will be sent to you after you have successfully registered for the Webinar. Click on the link provided in the email to join the Webinar.

Step 4: Install the Zoom client onto your computer or download the app on your mobile device.


Apr 03 2020


10:00 am - 11:30 am