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Drug baron builds a road to Mandala

Drug baron builds a road to Mandalay

The Hindu (New Delhi), November 19, 1997

LONDON, Nov. 18.
Khun Sa, Asia's most notorious drugs criminal, has gone into business
with the military dictators of Myanmar his former foes.

The multi-millionaire is pumping the vast profits from his illegal
heroin empire into the country's economy in one of the world's biggest
money laundering operations.

Flouting a 1.25 million pounds bounty put on his head by the U.S.
President Mr. Bill Clinton, and a U.S. demand for his extradition to
face drug trafficking charges brought in absentia, Khun Sa is living the
good life in Yangon with four young lovers.

For three decades, Khun Sa smuggled heroin around the world from his
ethnic Shan fiefdom in the jungles of the Golden Triangle before
negotiating a cease-fire last year with the country's ruling generals.
The druglord with a taste for vintage cognac find teenage consorts said
he would retire and tend chickens.

Now the 62-year-old, whose alias means "Prince Prosperous" has
re-emerged as the junta embraces capitalism.

The former British colony is rapidly being transformed into a so-called
"narco-economy" by drugs money.

Khun Sa is ploughing his fortune into a four-lane toll highway from
Yangon to Mandalay, running as bus company and property speculation in
the Burmese capital.  He also plans to invest 12 million pounds in a
tourist casino-hotel complex for tourists. In return the generals, who
came to power after massacring demonstrators in 1988, are taking their
cut of his drug proceeds.  Myanmar accounts for more than half the
world's opium production.  Last year's estimated yield of nearly 2,600
tonnes would produce about 260 tonnes of heroin.

Although most Golden Triangle heroin ends on the streets of America's
inner cities, British agents fear Myanmarese drugs will increasingly
find their way to Western Europe as new smuggling routes open through
China and the former Soviet Union.

Yangon, a crumbling colonial relic unchanged for three decades while the
generals pursued disastrous socialism, is awash with money from rich
drugs smugglers, of whom Khun Sa is the most infamous.

Money laundering is out of control, and shady magnates flanked by
bodyguards with AK-47s dominate seedy, nightclubs funded by drugs money.

The U.S. Secretary of State, Ms. Madeleine Albright, recently raised
concerns that foreign companies in Myanmar are collaborating with some
of the world's biggest narcotics smugglers.

The British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Robin Cook, accused Myanmar of
conniving with drugs smugglers during a speech on his summer Asian tour.

Copyright, Telegraph Group Limited, 1997,