The next Wa supremo
The ailing Wa leader Bao Youxiang has designated his younger brother to succeed him, according to reports from the Sino-Burma border.
Bao Youliang, 55, had reluctantly accepted the request made by his elder brother at a meeting held at Namteuk (also written Namtit) a town on the border with Kokang and China north of the Wa capital Panghsang.
Bao Youxiang, 59, the leader of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), regarded as the strongest ceasefire group, is reportedly suffering from toxoplasmosis, an infection of the brain.
“He has to write down in advance whatever he wants to say in a piece of paper and keeps referring to it during each meeting,” said a source close to him. “All who are present at the meeting are also required to speak one after another or he’s apt to get confused.”
The choice of Youliang as his successor as well as the overseer of the UWSA’s day-to-day affairs came to no surprise in Panghsang. “Xiao Minliang, though officially Youxiang’s second-in-command, does not enjoy much support from the rank and file,” said another source.
The younger Bao, also known as Ta Zied, was until a few years ago, the mayor of Mongmai (also written Mongmau), a town northwest of Panghsang. He later became the deputy head of the department of finance under Wei Xuegang, wanted in both the United States and Thailand on drug charges. At present, he is the official head of the department.
Bao Youliang has recently moved into the newly built house in Panghsang owned by his nephew Ta Roong, the mayor of Namteuk, reputedly the de facto head of the hardliners. His son Bao Chang, 27, is said to be a deputy of Ta Roong.
Sources say it is still too early to predict how he will turn out. “Among the 4 Baos, he and the eldest brother Youri used to be one faction in the clan and Youxiang and the late youngest brother Youhua (who died on 26 August 2007) the other,” remembers one. “But we hope this new responsibility will make him a leader, if nothing else.”
The UWSA, since 2004 when their key junta patron Gen Khin Nyunt was ousted, has been under on-and-off pressure from Naypyidaw to surrender. Paradoxically, the Wa region has also been granted a self-administered status by the constitution approved by the ruling junta in May.