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BURMA SAYS U.S. TRYING TO NAB KHUN
- Subject: BURMA SAYS U.S. TRYING TO NAB KHUN
- From: moe@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 01 Dec 1997 04:33:00
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.
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
"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 surrendered.
"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 said.
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.