Shan State

Shan State

Shan State is a state of Myanmar. Shan State borders China to the north, Laos to the east, and Thailand to the south, and five administrative divisions of Burma in the west. Largest of the 14 administrative divisions by land area, Shan State covers 155,800 km², almost a quarter of the total area of Burma. The state gets its name from the Shan people, one of several ethnic groups that inhabit the area. Shan State is largely rural, with only three cities of significant size: Lashio, Kengtung, and the capital, Taunggyi. Taungyyi is 150.7 km north east of the nation's capital Naypyitaw. Shan State, with many ethnic groups, is home to several armed ethnic armies. While the military government has signed ceasefire agreements with most groups, vast areas of the state, especially those east of the Thanlwin river, remain outside the central government's control, and in recent years have come under heavy ethnic-Chinese economic and political influence. Other areas are under the control of military groups such as the Shan State Army.


Shan State is the unitary successor state to the Burmese Shan States, the princely states that were under some degree of control of the Irrawaddy valley-based Burmese kingdoms. Historical Tai-Shan states extended well beyond the Burmese Shan States, ranging from full-fledged kingdoms of Assam in the northwest to Lan Xang in the east, to Lanna and Ayutthaya in the southeast, as well as several petty princely states in between, covering present-day northern Chin State, northern Sagaing Division, Kachin State, Kayah State in Myanmar as well as Laos, Thailand and the southwestern part of Yunnan, China. The definition of Burmese Shan States does not include the Ava Kingdom and the Hanthawaddy Kingdom of the 13th to 16th centuries, although the founders of these kingdoms were Burmanized Shans and Monized Shans, respectively.

Early History

The first founding of Shan states inside the present-day boundaries of Burma began during the Pagan Kingdom in the Shan Hills and accelerated after 1287, when the Pagan Kingdom fell to the Mongols. The Shans, who came South with the Mongols, stayed and quickly came to dominate much of northern to eastern arc of Burma—from northwestern Sagaing Division to Kachin Hills to the present-day Shan Hills. The most powerful Shan states were Mong Yang (Mohnyin) and Mong Kawng (Mogaung) in present-day Kachin State, followed by Hsenwi (Theinni), Hsipaw (Thibaw) and Mong Mit (Momeik) in present-day northern Shan State. Smaller Shan states, such as Kale in northwestern Sagaing Division, Bhamo in Kachin State, Yawnghwe (Nyaungshwe) and Kengtung (Kyaingtong) in Shan State, and Mong Pai (Mobye) in Kayah State, played a precarious game of paying allegiance to more powerful states, sometimes simultaneously.

The newly founded Shan States were multi-ethnic, which included many other ethnic minorities as the Chin, the Kachin, the Wa, the Ta'ang, the Lisu, the Lahu, the Pa O, the Kayah, etc. Although Burmanized Shans founded the Ava Kingdom that ruled central Burma, other Shan states, Mohnyin in particular, constantly raided Ava territories throughout the years. A Mohnyin-led Confederation of Shan States finally conquered Ava in 1527.

Toungoo and Konbaung periods (1555–1885)

In 1555, King Bayinnaung dislodged Shan king Sithu Kyawhtin from Ava. By 1557 he went on to conquer all of what would become known as the Burmese Shan States under his rule, from the Assamese border in the northwest to those in Kachin Hills and Shan Hills, including the two most powerful Shan States, Mohnyin and Mogaung. The Shan states were reduced to the status of governorships, but the Saophas were permitted to retain their royal regalia and their feudal rights over their own subjects. Bayinnaung introduced Burmese customary law and prohibited all human and animal sacrifices. He also required the sons of Saophas to reside in the Burmese king's palace, essentially hostages, in order to ensure the good conduct of their fathers, and to receive training in Burmese court life. Burmese kings continued this policy until 1885, when the kingdom fell to the British. (The northernmost Shan States, in Yunnan, had already fallen to the Chinese Ming dynasty by the middle of the 15th century.)

The reach of the Burmese sovereign waxed and waned with the ability of each Burmese monarch. Shan states became briefly independent following the collapse of the first Toungoo dynasty, in 1599. The Restored Toungoo dynasty under King Nyaungyan and King Anaukpetlun recovered the Shan states, including the two strongest—Monhyin and Mogaung by 1605 and Lan Na by 1615.In the early 18th century, the rule of Burmese monarchs declined rapidly and by the 1730s, the northernmost Shan States, many of which had paid dual tribute to China and Burma, had been annexed by the Qing Dynasty of China. The annexed border states ranged from Mogaung and Bhamo in present-day Kachin State to Hsenwi (Theinni) and Kengtung (Kyaingtong) in present-day Shan State to Sipsongpanna (Kyaingyun) in present-day Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan.

In the middle of the 18th century, the Burmese Konbaung dynasty's reassertion of the easternmost boundaries of Burmese Shan States led to a war with China. It made four separate invasions of Burma from 1765 to 1769, during the Sino-Burmese War. The Burmese success in repelling a numerically far superior Chinese force laid the foundation for the present-day boundary between Burma and China.

The present-day boundary of southern Shan State vis-a-vis Thailand was formed shortly after. Burma lost southern Lan Na (Chiang Mai) in 1776 and northern Lan Na (Chiang Saen) in 1786 to a resurgent Bangkok-based Siam, ending an over two-century Burmese suzerainty over the region. It retained only Kengtung on the Burmese side. The southern border of Shan State remained contested in the following years. Siam invaded Kengtung in (1803–1804), (1852–1854), and Burma invaded Lan Na in 1797 and 1804. Siam occupied Kengtung during World War II (1942–1945).

Throughout the Burmese feudal era, Shan states supplied much manpower in the service of Burmese kings. Without Shan manpower, the Burmans alone would not have been able to achieve their much vaunted victories in Lower Burma, Siam, and elsewhere. Shans were a major part of Burmese forces in the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824–1826, and fought valiantly—a fact that the British commanders acknowledged.

After the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, the Burmese kingdom was reduced to Upper Burma alone. The Shan states—especially those east of the Salween River, were essentially autonomous entities, paying token tribute to the king. In 1875, King Mindon, to avoid certain defeat, ceded Karenni states, long part of Shan states, to the British. When the last king of Burma, Thibaw Min, ascended the throne in 1878, the rule of central government was so weak that Thibaw had to send thousands of troops to tame a rebellion in the Shan state of Mongnai and other eastern Shan states for the remainder of his six-year reign. Colonial period (1886–1948)

On 28 November 1885, the British captured Mandalay, officially ending the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 11 days. But it took until 1890 for the British to subdue all of the various Shan states. Under the Britishcolonial administration, established in 1887, the Shan states were ruled by their saophas as feudatoryprincely states of the British Crown. The British placed Kachin Hills inside Mandalay Division and northwestern Shan areas under Sagaing Division. In October 1922, the Shan and the Karenni states were merged to create the Federated Shan States, under a commissioner who also administered the Wa States. This arrangement survived the constitutional changes of 1923 and 1937.

During World War II, most of Shan States were occupied by the Japanese. Chinese Kuomingtang (KMT) forces came down to northeastern Shan states to face the Japanese. Thai forces, allied with the Japanese, occupied Kengtung and surrounding areas in 1942, annexing the territory to the Thai state.
After the war, the British returned, while many Chinese KMT forces stayed inside Burmese Shan states. Negotiations leading to independence at the Panglong Conference in February 1947 secured a unitary Shan State, including former Wa states but without the Karenni states. More importantly, Shan State gained the right of secession in 10 years from independence. Independence (1948–2010)

Soon after gaining independence in January 1948, the central government led by U Nu faced several armed rebellions. The most serious was the Chinese Nationalist KMT invasion of Shan State in 1950. Driven out by the Chinese Communist forces, Nationalist KMT armies planned to use the region east of the Salween river as a base from which to regain their homeland. In March 1953, the KMT forces, with US assistance, were on the verge of taking the entire Shan State and within a day's march of the state capital Taunggyi. The Burmese army drove back the invaders east across the Salween, but much of the KMT army and their progeny have remained in the eastern Shan State under various guises to the present day. The Burmese army's heavy-handedness fueled resentment.

In 1961, Shan saophas led by Sao Shwe Thaik, the first president of Burma and saopha of Yawnghwe, proposed a new federal system of government for greater autonomy, although the Shans had the constitutional right to secede. Though Shan leaders promised not to exercise the right, the Burmese army led by Gen. Ne Win thought the proposal was secessionist. Gen. Ne Win's coup d'etat in 1962 brought an end to the Burmese experiment with democracy and with it, the call for greater autonomy for ethnic minorities. The coup fueled the Shan rebellion, started in 1958 by a small group called Num Hsük Han (Young Warriors), now joined by the Shan State Army (SSA).

By the early 1960s, eastern Shan State festered with several insurgencies and warlords, and it emerged as a major opium-growing area, part of the so-called Golden Triangle. Narcotics trafficking became a vital source of revenue for all insurgencies. Major forces consisted of the SSA and the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), as well as those of the drug lords Khun Sa, and Lo Hsing Han. By the mid-1960s, CPB had begun receiving open support from China. Thailand also began a decades-long policy of support for non-Communist Burmese rebels. Families of insurgent leaders were allowed to live in Thailand, and insurgent armies were free to buy arms, ammunition, and other supplies.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, the military government signed ceasefire agreements with 17 groups, including all major players in Shan State. An uneasy truce has ensued, but all forces remain heavily armed. Today, the 20,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA) is the largest armed group, and is heavily involved in the narcotics trade. Under the 2008 Constitution, endorsed by the Burmese junta, certain UWSA-controlled areas were given the status of an autonomous region.

In recent decades, Chinese state and ethnic Chinese involvement in Shan State has deepened. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants from China have come to work in Upper Burma since the 1990s.ious] Chinese investment in the state has funded everything from hydropower and mining projects to rubber plantations, logging, and wildlife trade.ious] Wa and Kokang regions, led by local leaders, use the yuan currency and operate on Chinese Standard Time.

shan State (Arakan State)

Myanmar location


Myanmar location

Location of shan State in Myanmar


Shan States after 1557, then inside Bayinnaung's empire


Panorama looking out over Tachileik District, into the heart of the Daen Lao Range


Topography of Shan State

Coordinates: 19°30′N94°0′E / 19.500°N 94.000°E
Country Myanmar
Region West coastal
Capital Sittwe
• Chief Minister Nyi Pu (NLD)
• Legislature shan State Hluttaw
• Total 36,778.0 km2 (14,200.1 sq mi)
Area rank 8th
Population (2014 Census)
• Total 3,188,807
• Rank 8th
• Ethnicities shan, Kaman, Mro, Khami and others
• Religions Theravada Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and others
Time zone MST (UTC+06:30)