Why Did Foreigners Frequently Visit the
My articles " Why Did U Khun Sa's MTA Group Exchange Arms for Peace" were serialized in the Myanmar daily newspapers and they had stimulated the interest of many readers. The readers particularly wanted know the reasons why foreigners like Peter Bourne, one-time Presidential Advisor on Narcotic Drugs in the Carter Administration, had found it necessary to make such frequent visits, as well as about the involvement of the people from the country next door, in the illegal narcotics trade. It was brought to my attention that many wished for further details on these matters. This was to be expected, for these foreigners would surely not have made this journey without purpose or benefit. Nor was the MTA Headquarters a luxurious resort for rest and recreation. Moreover, most readers also wished to know as far as possible, the extent to which our neighbours across the border were involved in the drug trade. Then there were other related questions. How did the armed insurgent groups on the Thai border support themselves? Which country profited from the presence of these armed groups? But I am certain that the well informed reader would have had some inkling of the answers to these questions. Think about it. From which country did the MTA buy their arms and ammunitions and other military supplies like uniforms and so on, and what about the heroin that was presumably produced by the MTA? Were the MTA members themselves permitted to transport and convey the heroin that reached America and did they meet the drug barons or dealers there? If not, which country was the transit point and who were the people who did the actual buying and selling? I suppose these were questions that readers would naturally wish to know more about. I was myself immensely interested. I had been able to write my previous articles by courtesy of my friend who supplied me with the background facts in our conversations. Now I needed to know more, but I had to bide my time until he had some free time before asking my friend for further details. Fortunately enough today I got the chance that I had been waiting for, because it was a short rest period from agricultural work and he had some free time. So I proceeded with my Q&A programme.
"Hey my friend did you know I was able to write and contribute six articles to the newspaper with all that I learnt from my conversations with you. They were serialized and published under the title Why did U Khun Sa MTA Exchange Arms for Peace?
"I've read them all."
"Oh! That's fine then. Now they tell me readers want to know more about why so many foreigners came frequently to MTA headquarters. They also wish to know more about the involvement of people from our next-door country in the drug trade. Many have asked me to write more articles to fill in the missing gaps in these matters."
"Aha! This is just another way of wheedling more information out of me so you can make more money from your articles."
"Come on! You know that's not the main reason. People in the country get to know more about what went on behind the scenes from people like you and me. By learning these details they come to appreciate and value the efforts that were made. Just consider how people have now come to realize the real significance of your surrender. They are even beginning to comment that some people who can't see the good in anything have not done as much service to the country as someone who was once dubbed a drug king."
'Now you're patting yourself on the back for what you wrote."
"Not at all. Every one who thinks straight knows it's true."
"It's a joke, so forget it. Any one who values and desires peace will think along the same lines."
"Right! Then what about telling me the real story behind these frequent visits to your headquarters by some foreigners as much as you know of course."
On that condition then I will tell you as much as I know. I can't very well tell you more than I know nor should I exaggerate and fabricate. This is about foreigners so I have to be especially careful and be sure of my facts and furnish proof and so forth."
"Since you mention it, don't you have photographs and other written records?"
"Well, I was cleaning out my trunk the other day and came across some photos and papers. I was about to trash the lot when I remembered you and put them side."
"Thank goodness! Without such proof I'd be accused of being an unpaid defence counsel."
"Why should you care? Let them have their say. Anyway, as I mentioned in one of our previous talks, our headquarters is neither a sacred religious precinct nor a holiday resort. These people who come there are certainly not on very worthy missions. They either come to peddle arms or purchase narcotic drugs or are involved in gem smuggling. It's one thing or the other. They don't come to pay courtesy calls nor purely for a visit. They wouldn't be allowed to, anyway. There is plenty of evidence of such visits but none about the business conducted. In any case I wasn't in charge of such matters. But you can't very well expect sales receipts for the kind of transactions that went on, so there's no material evidence. That's why I said I can tell you only about what I know."
"The foreigners who carne to your headquarters, where were they from? What nationalities were they?"
"They were really a mixed lot. There were those like Peter Bourne, a former presidential advisor as I told you earlier; then there was a senator from America or so he said, and even the wife of the United States Assistant Secretary of State. Then we also had a representative of Britain's Scotland Yard, a CIA agent, a US war veteran and a horde of correspondents from all countries."
"What a mixed bag! All this, in spite of the diplomatic relations that exist between our country and theirs."
"It's true. I don't think your Government had so many people eager to lobby for it as U Khun Sa did at the time. You can't begin to imagine the number of newsmen who descended on us. They included those from the United States, ABC, London BBC, Central TV, Reuters, Australian channel-7 and Taiwan Central TV. There were so many."
"What about the ones from our neighbouring country?"
"Do you need to ask? As far as this country was concerned, we not only had correspondents but also military officials, police and regional officials, both high and low ranking from all departments. Then there was the self-styled Myanmar expert, Bertil Lintner of the Far Eastern Economic Review and that woman Yindee from the Nation newspaper. It was a nuisance you know and very annoying to have all these people around."
"Well after all they're news reporters and it is their job to gather all the news they can. They even visit front lines in the thick of battle to be first with the news."
"At our headquarters they managed to kill two or three birds with one stone. They get their news stories as well as other perks."
" You've said it, which reminds me. I've read about Lintner and seen his picture in the book Therefore . . . It follows. I read about how he turned up at BCP headquarters, then I learnt more about him when the KIO made peace and I met an old friend from university days."
"What did you find out? That he gorges himself with free food, takes away all he can and then repays one's hospitality with contrived and false news reports?"
"Not only that, there's more. This fellow sneaked into Myanmar to visit the KIO headquarters. There he was feted with food and showered with gifts of jade. Yet, at the time the KIO started the peace process with the Government, he invited U Brang Seng, the KIO chief to dinner at his residence in Bangkok and insulted him by refusing to meet his guest."
"What was the purpose in that?"
"It was to show his displeasure at the KIO plans for making peace. After inviting U Brang Seng to dinner he refused to come out of his room and made his wife entertain the guest alone. The KIO people still can't get over this insult. They say that if anyone should press Lintner's neck with a foot, he surely would disgorge the large amount of food that he's eaten at the KIO table. But even that's not the whole story, there's worse to come. You know U Sai Lin and U Kyi Myint of Special Region No: 4, well they once had to escort him from the BCP headquarters at Pan Sang on his return to Kyin Hone in Thailand. He had to be provided security all the way. He made a month-long stopover at Mong La on this trip where he was provided board and lodging.
Now in return for their kind hospitality he has accused them of still being engaged in drug trafficking even though everyone else has acknowledged the fact that they have succeeded in eradicating all narcotic drugs from their region."
"Yeah, If I had to tell you about the journalists it would be unending. I know for a fact that U Khun Sa went to great expense to lobby them. You see he wanted to erase all those charges against him as a drug lord. He wanted to divert attention instead to a political role for himself, as someone fighting for the Shan national cause. I don't know exactly how much was paid to which particular journalist, but there is no shred of doubt that they benefited from these visits in more ways than one."
"So these media people must have made a packet. By the way were any female correspondents intrepid enough to visit your place?"
"I told you didn't I? This Thai female correspondent Yindee made so many visits she became an eyesore to me. And why wouldn't they have dared to come? They were free to come at any time, even in the middle of the night. Once they got to Mae Hong Song on the Thai side of the border, it was only a matter of 2 hours to get to our headquarters and there were no border checks,"
"I thought all border crossings were strictly checked at appointed checkpoints."
"Don't be so thick-headed my friend. Those days, the MTA had liaison offices at Chieng Mai and Mae Hong Song and another one at Mae Sai, half under cover. So don't ask me if it's easy to obtain permission from your friends over the border to cross over. Just give them money and they'll even carry you piggy-back over the border."
"Wait, wait! What about the so-called agents of the DEA and CIA who were supposed to be in charge of narcotic drug control? Didn't they know about these violations?"
"You seem to have a high opinion of these guys. If they were as capable or as dedicated to the anti-narcotic drive, as you seem to think, not a grain of heroin would reach American soil. U Khun Sa once commented that the US budget appropriations for the fight against narcotic drugs was like giving the wrong medication to the wrong patient. He said that if they had the sense to divert these funds to our region he would see to it and guarantee that no one would cultivate opium anymore. He would personally vouch for that."
"I'm quite sure the DEA and CIA officials are aware of all the comings and goings. After all, these are world-wide agencies."
"Whether they knew or not, I cannot say. But these agents themselves were acquainted with U Khun Sa's inner circle whom they often met. Figure out the rest for yourself."
"Mm, yes. In fact come to think of it, it makes me wonder the real reason why U Khun Sa's on America's wanted list. They were the ones who established contact with him and in the same breath have indicted him on narcotic drug charges. So, is U Khun Sa on their wanted list because he knows too much and could let the cat out of the bag? They're really treacherous."
"OK then, think about this. If they're really serious about narcotic drug eradication, why should a former presidential advisor on narcotic drug control get in touch and meet someone whom they have publicly declared as a drug king? Why not discuss the issue with the Government? It was really ironic you know. Here we were the No: 1 enemy on the Government's list and being given a really sound beating as such. Yet the United States Government refused to recognize the Government's efforts, leave alone give any form of aid or assistance. Instead they come a calling on U Khun Sa. If you think about this situation even at the level of a fourth grader, everything becomes perfectly clear."
"There's no gain saying that. Look at what happened when they incited U Khun Sa to make the ill-timed attack on government forces. A lot of men died and many were wounded and disabled. It's really regrettable, the way we fought each other. And in the end, we were the ones who died."
"And just see how they behaved. Peter Bourne stayed at Ho Mong Headquarters for over a week. Here's the photograph, there's even a date on the back"
"This guy who's supposed to be a citizen of a highly developed country in all respects, sneaks into our country and enjoys the hospitality of someone they have dubbed a drug king. Then, isn't it likely that he would misuse his rank and authority to do some drug trafficking on the side, for his own profit?"
"CIA agents have also been known to be involved in drug trafficking. Maybe this Peter Bourne also would not have come to Ho Mong unless there was some profit in it. I wasn't in charge of drugs, it wasn't part of my duties, so I certainly can't tell you to what extent he was involved. If anyone wants to know, then you should probably ask the DEA."
"What did Peter Bourne actually do for you?"
"He provided us with 20 Thai passports to enable MTA members to travel abroad as representatives of an independent Shan State and establish relations off1cially with some foreign powers. And he also promised to get us permission to open up representative offices somewhat in the manner of diplomatic missions in some western bloc nations. He did make good his promise. We were able to open 2 offices, one in Washington and one in New York. Khun Hpa and Shan Hpa were put respectively in charge."
"Did he give any assistance in the form of money and arms and ammunitions?"
"I heard he did help to set up some funds for us in America. But I didn't come across evidence of direct funding in large amounts to headquarters. Only U Khun Sa would know. But since Bourne was behind the MTA offensive against the Government that was launched as a means of gaining international attention, who can say with absolute certainty that he did not provide necessary assistance."
"It's really shocking! The American Government not only does not acknowledge the endeavours made by our country to eradicate drugs, some of its responsible anti-narcotic officials have the gall and duplicity to create mayhem in our country."
"You'll come to know quite soon of other matters far worse. But let's take a break for today." "You're always doing this to me leaving me in suspense."