Internationalt Nyt

Myanmar: Notorious Drug Lord At Death’s Door

Media Awareness Project03 May 2000 Straits Times (Singapore)

Myanmar: Notorious Drug Lord At Death’s Door

Author: James East

NOTORIOUS DRUG LORD AT DEATH’S DOORMYANMAR’S most notorious drug lord, Khun Sa, is semi-paralysed and is not expected to last the year, according to sources close to him.

Friends say he is becoming increasingly feeble and forgetful and cannot get out of bed without help.

Khun Sa, once the most-wanted man on the United States’ list of international drug dealers, lives in Yangon inside a military intelligence compound.

The military junta has refused consistently to extradite him following a 1996 deal in which he abandoned his ethnic Mong Tai Army (MTA) and his Homong base in Shan state. The MTA, a former enemy of the junta, then broke apart.

Plans for him to retire to his former stronghold in eastern Myanmar, where he once commanded 15,000 heavily armed troops, had apparently been abandoned, said the Thai-based Shan Herald News Agency.

It quoted a former attendant as saying that Khun Sa was on his last legs.

“He has to be spoon-fed. If he tries to help himself, he ends by spilling everything over his clothes,” she said. “His mouth keeps going awry making his speech unintelligible. He also has trouble remembering anything.”

She added that Khun Sa’s physicians were whispering that it would be a miracle if he lived out the year.

The agency, an independent news service partly-funded by financier George Soros’ Open Society organisation, is respected by human rights groups for its information gathering.

Even if Khun Sa wanted to return to the Shan state, sources say there is little left for him.

His three homes in Homong and two other houses south in Mongmai were cleared out by his mistresses.

They whisked his valuable furniture off to Thailand or to Tachilek on the Myanmar side of the border. The homes are now surrounded by overgrown grass and bush.

Khun Sa’s life now is a far cry from his glory days in the 90s when his army trafficked hundreds of tonnes of heroin into Thailand and onto the international market. Shan Herald Agency founder, Khuensai Jaiyen, said Khun Sa’s present home was “nothing flashy”.

“It is not his normal standard of living,” he said.

In a letter written reportedly to one of former aides in Thailand he spoke about his desire to return to the Shan state.

“Even if I got nabbed by US drug agents, my life in the American jail would fare even better than here in Yangon?” Khun Sa wrote.

However, in spite of his poor health, his legacy appears to live on.

Last year the Myanmar Defence Ministry stated that his surrender terms included a no-trafficking clause.

But observers claim Khun Sa has been granted public transport concessions in Shan state by the government, which allows him to control trafficking. He is also involved in gem trading and construction businesses.

According to the Shan Herald Agency, Khun Sa’s second son, Chang Weikang — one of eight children — is now building a power base in Shan state.

A new militia, ultimately falling under his control, is being established.

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KHUN SA

Born Chang Chi Fu

Former head of the now-defunct Shan United Army (SUA), also known as the Mong Thai Army (MTA), which for 20 years fought against the authorities in Yangon. MTA was a dominant force in South-east Asia’s narcotics trade and the world’s largest producer of heroin prior to capitulating to government forces in 1996.

Wanted on US federal drug violations in the Eastern District of New York, including conspiracy, importation of, and possession with intent to distribute heroin in US.

Tops a US list of five wanted narcotics kingpins

US$2 million (S$3.4 million) reward had been offered for information leading to his arrest or conviction in the US.

MAP posted-by: Richard Lake