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THE CAMBERRA TIMES, Saturday, August 26, 1995
by Tim Mc Girk

RANGOON:	 Back in the 60s the Burmese army decided to give a few rifles
to a local tough named Khun Sa to protect his village against marauding 
communists in the hilly jungles. 
	It was an appalling error of character judgment, one that the 
military regime in Rangoon has regretted ever since. Khun Sa is used the 
guns to set himself up as an opium smuggler. Now a grandfatherly 62, Khun 
Sa has grown into the most feared opium warlord in the Golden Triangle, 
which covers Burma, Laos and northern Thailand and is the world's largest 
producer of opium. For more than 30 years Khun Sa has run a river of 
heroin into the streets of Europe, Asia and the United States, wreaking 
misery and death on million of lives.	
	Inside his own territory Khun Sa followed a custom of old Burmese 
kings: he executed any of his army cought using opium or its refined 
product heroin. The monarchs had molten lead porued down an offender's 
throat; the more frugal Khun Sa used a single bullet. And for nearly 30 
years the Burmese military despots have been trying to cover their 
blunder by disarmiung Khun Sa without success. His ethnic Shan army of 
seversal thousand men can easily afford tje ;atest weaponry. Burmese 
aircraft do not strafe his encampments alont the Salween river becouse 
they are afraid of Khun Sa's sopnisticated surface-to-air missiles. Khun 
Sa is reported to have bribed Burmese and Thai district commanders on 
both sides of the border not to move against him. Drug enforcement 
experts in Bangkok and Rangoon, however, claim that Khun Sa's reign as 
lord of the Golden TRiangle may soon end. The Burmese military junta, 
having secured ceasefire agreements with most of the ethnic armies, are 
finally moving against Khun Sa's fiefdom.Burmese soldiers are being helped 
by rival opium barons from the Wa clans who are plotting to seize Khun 
Sa's opium farms, his heroin factories and caravan routes into Thailand, 
China , Laos and India. Rangoon's cease-fire pact with one Karen ethnic 
army has enabled the Burmese troops to move up to the edge oof Khun Sa's 
jungle domain without being shot up by other acversaries. One Western 
drug agency expert said that normally, the Burmese military doesn't 
bother doing anything during the monsoon rains. But this year, they have 
moved more than 4000 troops down to stare face-to -face with Khun Sa. 
Most of the Burmese troops are clustered around Ho Mong, MOng Yawn and 
Tachilek, all near the Thai border. In addition the communist-hating 
genererals who have ruled Burma since 1962 have overcome their 
ideological qualms and bought from China more than 5000 mortar shells 
which they plan to lob at Khun Sa. 
	Most fdamaging, generals on the ruling state law and order 
restoration council in Rangoon have, succeeded in exploiting ethnic 
difference within Khun Sa's army. Half-Chinese and Half-Shan Khun Sa 
surrounded himself with a circle of Chinese field commanders. Many of 
these commanders were Khun Sa's old comrades from the Kuomintang, exiled 
anti-communist CHinese who during the 1950s and 1960s received covert 
backing from the American Central Intelligence Agency. As one Western 
diplomat explained, Khun Sa happens to be a drug lord who sells himself 
to the locals as a Shan nationalist fighting aginst the Burmese army," 
Few Shan which in the local language means "free people", are gtullible 
enought to be Khun Sa. While Khun Sa is said to have invested his many 
millions buting up property in Chang Mai, Bangkok and Hong Kong drug 
experts clims that his soldiers wages are meagre, barely enough to buy a 
rice meal and a pack of cigarettes. Playing on the discontent between the 
Shan and Chinese within the warlords's army, the Rangoon regime lured 
over a key defector, Magor Karnyord who now leads an independent Shan 
muilitia of 500 men. The major reportedly quite because of Khun Sa's 
"discrimination" against the native Shans. Even if Khun Sa cannot bribe 
of fight his way free of Rangoon's threatened offensive once the monsoon 
rains let up, few drug enforcement experts think that heroin supplies 
from Burma will instantly dry up.
	"It's good to see the Burmese generals take on a main trafficker, 
but there are plenty of others who will fill the gap left by Khun Sa," 
one drug expert complained. - Independent.