Gas ex­plo­sion kills 16 in Myan­mar's re­mote Wa state: Wa army

Mizzima Business Weekly - - NEWS ROUNDUPS -

Agas ex­plo­sion in a se­cre­tive en­clave run by the ethnic Wa in Myan­mar's eastern bor­der­lands has killed 16 peo­ple and in­jured dozens, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) said last week.

Emer­gency work­ers could be seen trawl­ing through de­bris at the ex­plo­sion site in Mong­maw town in a video posted on Face­book by UWSA spokesman Nyi Rang.

"Six­teen peo­ple were killed and 48 oth­ers in­jured in a gas ex­plo­sion ac­ci­dent," he wrote, con­firm­ing that the blast oc­curred early Satur­day evening.

Per­mis­sion to ac­cess the re­mote zone is rarely granted, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify in­for­ma­tion.

self-pro­claimed Wa State on the bor­der be­tween China and Myan­mar only has an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of some 600,000 peo­ple.

But it en­joys an un­usual de­gree of au­ton­omy within Myan­mar and boasts the coun­try's largest non-state army of around 30,000 sol­diers.

This year the Wa are cel­e­brat­ing a 30-year cease­fire with the na­tion's mil­i­tary, and in a rare move are due to open their doors for three days in April to out­siders, in­clud­ing for­eign­ers.

In 1989, Wa troops mu­tinied against the lead­ers of the Com­mu­nist Party of Burma who were driven into ex­ile in China. The sub­se­quent truce signed be­tween the UWSA and the mil­i­tary junta has proven rel­a­tively sta­ble in a coun­try where the Myan­mar army is still fight­ing wars against var­i­ous ethnic armed groups.

The Wa have very close links to neigh­bour­ing China. Man­darin is far more widely spo­ken than Myan­mar (Burmese) and the self-ad­min­is­tered zone's econ­omy de­pends on cross­bor­der trade.

The blast on Satur­day came just two days af­ter China ex­pe­ri­enced one of its worst in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents in re­cent years, where an ex­plo­sion at a chem­i­cal plant in Yancheng in the coun­try's east left scores dead.

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