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ARTICLE FROM THE ADVERTISER 9/9/95:
Subject: ARTICLE FROM THE ADVERTISER 9/9/95: THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS
/* Posted 14 Sep 6:00am 1995 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx(DR U NE OO) in igc:reg.burma */
/* -------------" The Advertiser: THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS "------------ */
[The Advertiser is one of the local newspaper for Adelaide, South
The Advertiser: 9 September 1995, pp26
THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS
Story: Nick Cater News Ltd Asia Bureau
He is known as the Pablo Escobar of Asia. But is the world's biggest heroin
dealer about to retire ?
NAME: Chang Chifu aka Khun Sa
BORN: 1934 in the Shan State to a Shan mother and a Chinese father.
EDUCATION: Basic monastic.
CAREER: Became an outlaw at the age of 16. Entered the opium business in
1963 while commanding a unit under the command of the Burmese Army. Jailed
from 1969 to 1974 and released in exchange for two kidnapped Soview
doctors. Set up the separatist Shan United Army in northern Thailand but
forced across the border to Homong in 1982. Named himself president in late
HOBBIES: Drinking, disco dancing, karaoke
Time may be running out, at last, for Asia's most notorious drug
worlord, Khun Sa - the rebel identified as Australia's biggest supplier of
heroin. The man once branded by a United States diplomat as "the worst
enemy the world has" says he is retiring after being squeeezed by the
Burmese Government Army and from opponents within his own ranks.
But intelligence sources are sceptical that the world has seen the last of
Khun Sa - a dictatorial, charismatic 61 year old who commands one of the
best equipped rebel armies in Asia.
"He's like a mad dog." one Thai intelligence source says. "You can put him
in a box but you don't expect him oto stop biting."
For two decades, KHun Sa has been the unchallenged ruler of the Shan
fiefdom in Burma's wild north east, where fields of opium poppies grow as
far as the eye can see, and beyond.
It is the heart of the Golden triangle - the border region straddling Burma
Thailand and Laos, where 65 percent of the world's opium is grown and
It is by far the largest source of heroin bound for Australia and Khun Sa
dominates the market.
A year ago, in one of Australia's biggest seizures of hard drugs, Customs
officers discovered 120 kg of herion, aboard a Thai fishing vessel in
Darwin Harbor, which intelligence reports said had come from Khun SA. " He
doesn't exaactly stamp his trademark on it but there are ways of telling
where it came from, " one Australian anti-narcotics officer says.
Khun Sa, a flamboyant and skilful self publicist, describes himself as a
freedom fighter rather than a drug baron, saying he is fighting for an
independent Shan State.
He claims that he only "taxes" opium traffickers and does not grow it
But in the US, where he has been indicted for trying to export 1.6 tonnes
of herion between 1986 and 1988, Drug Enforcement Agency officers have
labelled him the world's most wanted drug trafficker - the Pablo Escobar of
His wealthe and influence is apparent in his prosperous headquarters town
of Homong, in burma's Shan State, close to the border with Thailand.
It is a thriving market town of 20,000 people, with good roads lit at
night, a school, Buddhist monastery and modern hospital. There are hotels,
discos and karaoke bars.
Khun Sa himself is said to be fond of a drink and enjoys disco dancing. He
is driven around the town in a ute, armed bodyguards packed into the rear.
His 15,000 strong private Mong Tai Army boasts a formidable array of
weapons, bought in the world arms bazaar using profits from drug exports.
There are Russian and chinesemade AK47s, American M16 assault fifles,
grenade launchers, mortars and 50 calibre anti aircraft guns.
Late last year, Thai border police seized a consigment of sophisticated
surface-to-air missiles believed destined for Khun Sa's forces.
People who have met him describe Khun Sa as charming and witty. He
describes himself as "happy go lucky", not at all the "prince of darkness"
his opponents have labelled him.
His adopted Shan name translates as "prosperous prince" - an appropriate
tag, given the hundreds of millions of dollars he is said to have reaped
from the drug trade.
A wanted man in Thailand, Burma and China, he claims to have evaded more
than 40 attempts on his life.
Born as Chang Chifu in 1934 to a Shan mother and father , Khun Sa received
only a scant education before becoming an outlaw at the age of 16. He began
trading opium in 1963 as a commander of a unit under the command of the
Burmese army based in the poppy growing region near Loi Maw mountain, in
the northern Shan State.
But he was arrested in 1969 under suspicion of having secret dealings with
rebel groups. His release in 1974 was in exchange for two kidnapped Soview
doctors held hostage by the rebels.
Khun Sa took to the jungle, establisheng a base fo his Shan United Army in
north-west Thailand. But his blatant drug dealing was an embarrassment for
the Thais, who forced him back into Burma in January, 1982. Three years
later, Khun Sa's SUA merged with the Tai Revolutionary Council forces of
veteran Shan independence fighter Moh Hong, forming the MTA.
In december, 1993, he convened a Shan "parliament", announcing himself as
president as well as commander-in-chief of the army. But, despite the NTA's
firepower, Khun SA's forces now find themselves on the back foot after
aconcerted 18 month assault by forces of Burma's ruling State Law and Order
For SLORC, the attack on Khun Sa's empire has little to do with heroin. The
regime is more concerned about removing one of the last significant pocket
of insurgency while, at the same time, currying favor with the US.
Meanwhile, the tightening of Thai border controls is restricting KHun Sa's
suppplies of arms.
And there are reports of large-scale defections from the MTA as younger
Shan rebels grow impatient for independence and disillusined with KHun Sa's
obsession with the drug trade.
It was against that background that KHun Sa announced late last month he
would be stepping down as army chief and handing over to a respected Shan
nationalist. Few observers are convinced by the manoeuvre, nowever.
One Western source in Bangkok compares Khun Sa's retirement to that of
China's Deng Xiaoping in 1989 - he may nave formally left office but he
still wields the power.
"It's all smoke and mirrors. Nothing has really changed," the sources says.
Even if KHun Sa falls from power, there is little hope it will make much
differene to the 2500 tonnes of opium flowing each year from northern
With the trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars, experts believe other
Golden Triangle warlords will be quick to take his place.