Labels for the wild Wa

OK, so what exactly are these?

The history of the Wa people of Eastern Burma is well known, and in particular how the collapse of the armed forces of the Communist Party of Burma, including many Wa fighters, created the rise of the United Wa State Army, whose influence grew to control a huge tract of border territory, and then, with the cease fires, developed into nation wide business interests, both legitimate and reputedly less so.

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So are these “stamps” the creation of the UWSA? Colour photocopied (or computer printed), roughly gummed and perf or imperf, their source of supply seems to be a single dealer in India, which is perhaps a bit worrying. And his prices aren’t cheap! Certainly, if the denominations are anything to go by, they can be none too recent; pyas don’t exist these days, and today’s stamps are valued in hundreds of kyats. Similar labels exist marked “Shan State”, but neither type seems to have any connection with the many other (more or less) bogus labels created for the ethnic separatist groups of Burma over the last forty or so years. (Use the “Karenni” tag below for a few examples.)

If anyone has more information on these, I’d love to hear it.

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Karenni victory

A couple of covers pulled pretty much at random from one of the many folders whose contents I need to sort and mount. The Karenni border region of Myanmar (officially Kayah State) has seen one of the most intractable of the many ethnic insurgencies against the central government. As virtually all the seventy years’ real postal history of these insurgent territories has been lost, most of the philatelic evidence is now down to cinderellas. In the case of Karenni, these were shrewdly promoted in the ‘nineties by Abel Tweed, Foreign Minister of insurgent Karenni; as Edith Mirante noted in one of her insurgent chronicles, foreign supporters were Tweed’s political strength at the time. Karenni labels produced by sympathisers in Switzerland, New Zealand, Thailand and the UK were boosted by mail art competition creations of varying quality, and much of this parapostal material was dispatched to the Karenni Foreign Ministry based just across the Thai border at Mae Hong Son. Some of it even found its way out again attached to mail. I won’t reference all this context, as further information is easily found via Google.

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These two ‘nineties covers came from New Zealand activist and mail artist Murray Menzies, appointed by Karenni at the time as its chargé d’affaires for the ‘South Pacific Region’. They carry a neat little label with the iconic image of a Kayah or Padaung woman in brass neck rings, printed in black on cream paper, perf or imperf. There are variations, as shown here, and many other such labels; a complete catalogue would be both impossible and tedious, but at some point some kind of basic listing will be needed just for the record, I guess. In the meantime, we can show a few more here from time to time.

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