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REUTER(30/1/96): SLORC ABUSE EX-MTA
Subject: REUTER(30/1/96): SLORC ABUSE EX-MTA SOLDIERS
ASIA: FORMER BURMA OPIUM REBELS SAID FORCED TO LABOUR
By Sutin Wannabovorn of Reuters
BANGKOK, Jan 30 Reuter - Hundreds of guerrillas who surrendered
to Burmese troops in hopes they could go home have been tricked
into forced labour while their opium warlord leader Khun Sa
apparently stays free, guerrilla and Thai intelligence sources said
Other guerrillas who believe Khun Sa has double-crossed them
have managed to escape, the sources said.
They said hundreds of Mong Tai Army (MTA) guerrillas who have
surrendered since the beginning of January were taken from their
headquarters at Ho Mong to a camp ringed with barbed wire near
Langko in northeastern Shan state.
From there they were taken to work on a 30km road linking the
town of Mong Hsat with former MTA strongholds near the Thai border
to the south, said a Thai intelligence source.
"They were lured from Ho Mong thinking they were getting a free
ride home but once in Langko they found themselves in a big field
surrounded by barbed wire," the officer said.
"Then they were taken to work on the road," he said, adding that
an estimated 1,300 MTA soldiers and local villagers were working on
Forced labour is common in Burma and has drawn criticism from
international human rights groups. The military government says
what it calls voluntary labour on public projects is a Burmese
The Thai officer and guerrilla sources on the border said
hundreds of other MTA fighters had fled from Ho Mong after hearing
of their comrades' fate and many had trekked into Thailand.
The Thai officer said the fleeing MTA members were being allowed
to pass through Thai territory to nearby sections of the border
where they crossed back into Burma.
One guerrilla source said many of those fleeing were stashing
weapons in the jungle just inside Burma and would retrieve them if
and when necessary.
"Many MTA guerrillas now realise they were double-crossed by
Khun Sa so they hope to regroup and return to retrieve their
weapons," one MTA officer told Reuters.
The veteran opium warlord Khun Sa surrendered to government
forces at the beginning of the month, giving up his guerrilla war
and his Shan state strongholds.
Thousands of MTA guerrillas surrendered with their weapons. But
some factions within the group, in particular Shan nationalists
seeking autonomy from the Rangoon government, say they will
continue their fight.
Burma's state media has been reporting the surrender of smaller
groups of MTA fighters over the last two weeks. It said yesterday a
total of 11,889 MTA members had now "returned to the legal fold"
bringing with them 7,249 assorted weapons.
The Burmese government has refused US requests that the drug
lord be handed over to face trial in the United States where he has
been indicted on heroin trafficking charges.
Burmese officials say he will be put on trial in Rangoon but MTA
sources said today Khun Sa was still in his Ho Mong headquarters
being guarded by his own men and Burmese soldiers.
"He has nine of his most trusted security men around him at all
times and about 100 Burmese troops forming an outer perimeter," the
MTA officer said.
International narcotics suppresssion agencies estimate Khun Sa
was responsible for about half of Shan state's annual opium crop of
some 2,000 tonnes.
The half-Chinese, half-Shan Khun Sa always claimed he was
fighting for the independence of Shan state and denied he was a
He said he only taxed opium traders passing through his zones of
control to finance his political fight.