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Burma Says US Trying to Nab Former
Wednesday November 26 2:32 PM EST
Burma Says US Trying to Nab Former Warlord
By Sutin Wannabovorn
CHIANG MAI, Thailand (Reuters) - Former Golden Triangle opium warlord Khun Sa
was reported Wednesday to have moved to a military compound after the Burmese
government said U.S. officials were trying to nab him.
Khun Sa, who surrendered to Burmese troops in January 1996, is wanted by the
United States where he has been indicted on various counts of drug
Thai narcotics officers and sources close to Khun Sa said Burma's military
government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), decided to shift
him from his lakeside villa to protect him from U.S. officials.
Khun Sa's associates and Thai narcotics officials said he was moved after
Washington began an investigation into $600 million of laundered money that
was believed to be circulating in Burmese business areas.
U.S. officials in Bangkok would not comment and U.S. embassy officials could
not be reached in Burma's capital, Rangoon.
One of Khun Sa's aides, speaking to Reuters in this northern Thai city, said:
"The Burmese claimed that the Americans were trying to snatch him so they
urged (Khun Sa) to leave the lakeside villa and go to the (military) compound
near (Rangoon's) airport."
He quoted Khun Sa's third wife, who returned from a visit to Rangoon, as
saying the former opium warlord was healthy but had confined himself to the
military intelligence compound.
A source in a Thai narcotics agency based in Chiang Mai confirmed the report.
"We heard that the Burmese relocated him to a safe place after the United
States started investigating some $600 million laundering money that was
circulating in Burma," he said.
The former Burmese government, the State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC), refused to extradite Khun Sa after his surrender, saying it would
deal with Khun Sa under Burmese law.
The SPDC, whose formation earlier this month abolished the SLORC, has given no
signs of a change in policy.
Khun Sa is the former commander of the now-defunct Mong Tai Army (MTA). He
used to command more than 20,000 guerrillas and portrayed himself as a freedom
fighter but international drug agencies accused him of using the MTA to
protect his heroin business in the Golden Triangle.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says the Golden Triangle, where
Burma, Laos and Thailand meet, produces about 70 percent of all heroin
reaching the United States.
Khun Sa's associate said the Burmese government would allow only family
members to visit him.
"He has four living wives, one in Chiang Mai, two in Mai Sai and one lives in
Burma's (town of) Tachilek. These wives rotate in visiting him," he said.
Khun Sa has four daughters and five sons, four of whom oversee Khun Sa's
various businesses in Burma.
A Thai narcotics official said two of Khun Sa's sons were now cooperating with
the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in the heroin business.
The UWSA is a former rebel group that struck a cease-fire with the Burmese
military in the early 1990s. A former rival to Khun Sa, it has controlled
opium growing and heroin production in the Golden Triangle since he
"The UWSA now dominate the drug business in Shan State and has overrun all of
Khun Sa's bases and his sons are now joining them," the Thai narcotics source
Narcotics sources estimate that the UWSA operates between 16 to 20 heroin
factories in Shan State near Thai border.
"These factories produce not less than 350 kg (770 pounds) (of heroin) per
month," the source said.
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