Open main menu

Kokang (Burmese: ကိုးကန့်; Chinese: 果敢; pinyin: Guǒgǎn; Wade–Giles: Kuo-kan) is a historical region in Myanmar (Burma). It is located in the northern part of Shan State, with the Salween River to its west, and sharing a border with China's Yunnan Province to the east. Its total land area is around 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 sq mi).[1] The capital is Laukkai. Kokang is mostly populated by Kokang people, a Han Chinese group living in Myanmar.


ကိုးကန့် / 果敢
Map of Kokang
Map of Kokang
Country Myanmar
Highest point2,548 m
 • Total10,000 km2 (4,000 sq mi)
1,000 m (3,000 ft)
 • Total150,000
 • Density15/km2 (39/sq mi)
Location of the Kokang region (green) within Shan State (yellow).

Kokang had been historically part of China for several centuries, but was largely left alone by successive governments due to its remote location. The region formed a de facto buffer zone between Yunnan province and the Shan States.[2] The Yang clan, originally Ming loyalists from Nanjing, consolidated the area into a single polity. In 1840, the Yunnan governor granted the Yang clan the hereditary rights as a vassal of the Qing dynasty.[2] After the British conquest of Upper Burma in 1885, Kokang was initially placed in China under the 1894 Sino-British boundary convention. It was ceded to British Burma in a supplementary agreement signed in February 1897.[3]

From the 1960s to 1989, the area was controlled by the Communist Party of Burma, and after the party's armed wing disbanded in 1989 it became a special region of Myanmar under the control of the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). Armed conflicts between the MNDAA and the Tatmadaw have resulted in the 2009 Kokang incident and the 2015 Kokang offensive.



In 2009, the population was reported to be around 150,000.[1] Of these, around 100,000 people held Burmese nationality, the remainder being from China. Of the Burmese nationality, 90% are ethnic Han-Chinese, with others being Shan, Palaung, Hmong, Wa, Lisu, Bai and Bamar. The large majority of ethnic Burmans are those dispatched to the region by the central government as military and administrative personnel and their families, primary school teachers, skilled workers, medical workers and other public service personnel. Because of the effective disappearance of the narcotics trade, many have lost their source of income and many local people have left the region.[citation needed]


The state was officially founded by Yang Shien-tsai (楊獻才/杨献才, Yáng Xiàncái); who began his reign in 1739 in and around Ta Shwe Htan, then called Xingdahu (興達戶/兴达户, Xīng Dáhù), and took the title "Chief of Xingdahu". He was succeeded on his death in 1758 by his son Yang Weixing (楊維興/杨维兴), later referred to as Chief of Kho Kan Shan (科干山, Kēgàn Shān).

He expanded his territory tenfold compared to that inherited from his predecessor. After his death in 1795, his son Yang You Gen (楊有根/杨有根, Yáng Yǒugēn) became the chief. He soon renamed the state as Kokang and titled himself Heng of Kokang.

In 1840, Yang Guohua (楊國華) was given the title "the Hereditable Magistrate of Guogan County (世襲果敢縣令)" by the Chinese Qing dynasty.

The Heng was succeeded after his death in 1874 by his younger brother Yang Guozheng (楊國正/杨国正), who ruled peacefully and began relations with Britain upon the annexation of Upper Burma. In 1916 he went blind, and abdicated in favour of his nephew Yang Chunrong (楊春榮/杨春荣, Yáng Chūnróng). The new ruler then took the Burmese title "Myosa" (lit. town eat, given to a prince). He died in 1927 and was succeeded by his son Colonel Sao Yang Wen Ping (楊文炳/杨文炳, Yáng Wénbǐng), Saopha of Kokang.


  • 1739–1758: Yang Shien Tsai (Cai) (b. 1685 – d. 1758)
  • 1758–1795: Yang Wei Shin (Xing) (d. 1795)

Title HengEdit

After China relinquished jurisdiction on 4 February 1897, Kokang came under British protection.[4]

  • 1795–1840: Yang Yon Gen (b. 1770 – d. 1840)
  • 1840–1874: Yang Guo Hwa (b. 1814 – d. 1874)
  • 1874–1916: Yang Guo Zhen (Hkun Lu Kwan) (b. 1840 – d. 1919)

Title MyosaEdit

  • 1916–17 Jan 1927: Yang Chun Yon (Yang Shwin Yong Tzu Ye) (b. 1878 – d. 1927)
  • 17 Jan 1927–1943: Sao Yang Wen Pi (1st term) (b. 1897 – d. 1949) (deposed by the Kuomintang in 1943; in exile from 1944 until Oct 1945)
  • Oct 1945–25 Aug 1947: Sao Yang Wen Pi (2nd term)

Title SaophaEdit

During World War II, Kokang was recognised as separate from Shan State in August 1947 by the British, and the ruler took the title Saopha. He died in 1949 and was succeeded by his son Sao Edward Yang Kyein Tsai (楊振材/杨振材, Yáng Zhèncái) who was deposed by the Burmese in 1959. Before that it is part Hsenwi Saopha territory.[5][6]

  • 25 Aug 1947–1949: Sao Yang Wen Pi
  • 1949–17 May 1959: Sao Edward Yang Kyein Tsai (b. 1918 – d. 1971)

Recent historyEdit

After the collapse of the Communist Party of Burma in 1989, Kokang was assigned as the autonomous First Special Region of the northern Shan State of Burma.[7]

Peng Jiasheng ruled Kokang since 1989 except he was ousted temporarily by rival Yang Mao-liang in 1992. He regain his power in the same year with the help of juntas but he was ousted again by juntas and replaced with his deputy Bai Xuoqian in 2009.[8]

In 2003, a comprehensive ban on the cultivation of the opium poppy came into effect. Due to the attendant food shortage, among other things, 2003 also saw a large-scale outbreak of malaria in mountain villages with authorities reporting some 279 deaths. During this time the Chinese government sent mobile medical units and supplies to the region, with the United Nations World Food Program also sending disaster relief soon after. In April 2005, the Japan International Cooperation Agency launched a new project to rebuild the lives of farmers in the mountain areas.[citation needed]

The 2008 Myanmar Constitution defines Kokang is a self-administered zone. Kongyan Township and Laukkai Township aka Laukkaing Township are grouped together to form Kokang Self-Administered Zone, which replaced the "First Special Region".[9]

2009 Kokang conflictEdit

In August 2009, Kokang was the site of a violent conflict, the Kokang incident, between junta forces and various ethnic armies.[10] As a result of the conflict the MNDAA lost control of the area and as many as 30,000 refugees fled to Yunnan province in neighboring China.[11]

2015 Kokang offensiveEdit

On 17 February 2015 Myanmar president Thein Sein declared a state of emergency and a three-month period of martial law in Kokang in response to fighting between government troops and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, a Kokang insurgent group.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Myanmar fighters cross into China". Al Jazeera News. 30 August 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  2. ^ a b Lintner, Bertil (1999). Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency since 1948. Silkworm Books. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-63041-184-8.
  3. ^ Kratoska, Paul H. (13 May 2013). Southeast Asian Minorities in the Wartime Japanese Empire. Routledge. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-136-12514-0.
  4. ^ Shan and Karenni States of Burma
  5. ^ Kokang, the Yang Dynasty
  6. ^ "The Secession of Kokang — Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)". Archived from the original on 2014-10-20. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  7. ^ Kokang Brief History
  8. ^ "Minister Without Borders says he's one-quarter Shan". 2012-05-28. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  9. ^ "Myanmar Constitution-Chapter 2 | Amnesty International USA". Archived from the original on 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  10. ^ Auswärtiges Amt Myanmar Innenpolitik
  11. ^ 47 Myanmar soldiers reported dead in clashes with Kokang rebels
  12. ^ Soe Zeya Tun (17 February 2015). "Myanmar declares martial law in troubled Kokang region". Reuters. Retrieved 18 February 2015.

External linksEdit