Why Did Foreigners Frequently Visit the
 MTA Headquarters

Part III

It is indeed a well-known fact that heroin in the Golden Triangle  originated with the remnants of KMT troops that were left behind after  their main forces left the country. The technology for refining opium was  supplied to the KMT by the CIA. The heroin thus produced reached the  American forces fighting in the Vietnam War, as a result of which many  of them became more or less permanent addicts. After the war had ended  in Vietnam, more heroin reached American shores. The identity of those  responsible for the shipments of heroin to America is no secret. Round  about 1972, the headquarters of the KMT No: 5 Brigade was located in  Maes Sai Long in Thailand. My friend told me that according to what  was recounted to him by a former KMT man, some members of the DEA, (an organization that had been formed with former CIA agents), had  ganged up with this KMT No: 5 Brigade to deal in drug trafficking. So, in  point of fact, we did not start the heroin business nor were we responsible for transporting the stuff that reached America. Anyway our  people did not have the means or facilities to ship it to America. 

The  Americans dug their own grave as as heroin is concerned. When the  CIA wanted to cover up their involvement in the heroin trafficking they  chose and crowned U Lao Sitt Han as the drug king of the post 1972  period. After U Lao Sit Han was arrested, U Khun Sa who had again  gone underground for the second time was designated drug king to  succeed U Lao Sitt Han. Now that U Khun Sa is no longer a presence on  the drug scene, phony correspondents like Bertil Lintner are attempting  to force the crown onto the heads of leaders of the armed ethnic groups  who have  made peace, to curry favour with the Americans. He falsely accuses the armed national groups of trafficking in drugs and the Government of turning a blind eye. Poppy cultivation is an evil legacy that the British left behind, but according to my friend they have not made much profit from it. My friend added that he would tell me who from which country made the most out of the drug trade by citing an example. He told me that within a month of the MTA exchange of arms for peace on 5th January 1996, real estate prices began to drop drastically in Chiengmai. A house which had previously fetched a price of 12 million bahts fell to 10 million. Within 4 to 6 months it again fell to half that price.

KNU leader Bo Mya seen in Ho Mong during one of his trips to solicit funds from
U Khun Sa.

This was because business related to the MTA had come to a dead stop. Cities nearest to Hoe Mein had formerly thrived on gem smuggling, drug trafficking, and the sale of chemicals, arms and ammunitions and military ordnance supplies. This is an indisputable fact. Hence the reason why the exchange of arms for peace led immediately to a slump in trade and to an immediate drop in real estate prices. So what inference can be drawn as to who benefited the most from the illegal drug trade? The more carefully you look the more you will see. It was pretty obvious. It cannot be denied that U Khun Sa's group did at one time operate heroin processing plants, but it did not have a monopoly on it. The question at issue is, where are the remnant KMT troops who first started refining opium years ago? In which country have they taken up residence? Where are they now? These questions should be asked in the Golden Triangle region. The people there are well aware of what the KMT people have been doing all these years right up till the present. These former KMT members like the MTA, at one time, are astride on the border, producing heroin. Then there are cases where people from the country next door with surplus cash pay wages and extortion money to run opium refineries through third parties. But the MTA which was a well-armed force with a capability to provide protection earned greater notoriety. The heroin was indeed refined entirely in the border territory under MTA control. Then the next question is whether law enforcement agencies like the DEA and the CIA as well as their Thai equivalents, were or were not present in those border areas where heroin was being produced. It can be said that they were conspicuous by their presence. There were many of their offices and headquarters in Mae Hong Song, Chiengmai, and Mae Sai. Then there was the presence of Government armed forces and multiple checkpoints at the border. So in spite of such a thick shield of protection, how did the heroin get to America. The situation was such that while U Khun Sa was being loudly  condemned as the drug king on the one hand, the very same foreign nations that were doing the shouting, treated him as the leader of an organization with an official standing on the other. They came and went to his headquarters freely and established relations with it while rendering assistance and support. The result was that he was able to conduct his illicit trade with impunity, as though it were a lawful enterprise. This fact remains irrefutable, whatever may be said. So when an opportunity presented itself, I was able to carry on discussions regarding this matter with my friend.

Some Thai citizens enjoy a picnic
lunch with U Khun Sa at Ho Mong.

"Hi, how are you? I want to know more details about the foreigners who came to visit your MTA headquarters, to fill in the gaps you know. So could you carry on from where left off last time."  

"Ah! ...there were so many of them. So, I'll highlight only the more interesting ones, especially those you should know about. Around 1992, an American film company, I can't recall the name, dispatched a team to Mae Hong Song to make a movie. The name of the film was "Air America" and the name of the  director was Dan Melnick. Bette Bao Lord, wife of the US Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord accompanied the team. They said the movie was about CIA involvement in the drug trade in Laos. This director met with members of our MTA and reached an agreement for the MTA not to shoot down airplanes taking aerial shots if they should happen to inadvertently violate air space. After the film had been completed the wife of the assistant Secretary of State came to Hoe Mein and donated 500 sets of uniforms for the MTA. I learnt that she also suggested to U Khun Sa to think of a plan to refute accusations made against him and erase his disreputable name as the world's No: 1 drug criminal."  

"What other assistance did she give?"  

"I know only this much. I don't know all the details."

"What about the group dispatched by the CIA that you mentioned the other day?"

Camaraderie of U Khun Sa and
a couple of Thai citizens.

"Oh yes! A group presumably dispatched by the CIA arrived at Hoe Mein about 1995. They were Mr.Wang and Mr. Peter Liu Peter Liu had previously visited Hoe Mein quite a number of times in 1991."

" What was the purpose of these visits?"

"They wanted to establish a missile base in MTA territory."

"Oh No! How dangerous."

"Our country was not the target. The target was China."

"Whichever country was the intended target, I still say it would have been very dangerous for our country."

"Naturally, but for them it's everyone for himself. The proposal was that if the MTA would allow them to build this missile base, they said it would benefit from cash remuneration plus supplies of weapons, ammunition and military clothing. They said they would also provide necessary vehicles for the narcotic  drug trade."

"Did U Khun Sa agree to all these terms?" "U Khun Sa is not that foolish my friend. He flatly refused because it would result in a lot of trouble and suffering for our country."

"I believe this guy Peter Liu is reported to have said that if his proposal was not acceptable to the MTA, then he would get to work on the KIO and the 'Wa' in the border areas.

Discussions between U Khun Sa and Thai
citizens on smuggling timber out of Myanmar.

"Well, their actions truly belie their words. These blokes are really frightening."

They're always spouting hot air bout U Khun Sa. But one of U Khun Sa's sons is attending school in the US, in Arizona. So, think about that! How come he's been allowed to do that? It's the same with our nextdoor neighbour. Can you believe their statement that they made an all-out attack on the MTA with planes and tanks as part of their efforts at drug eradication."

"As things stand, it becomes impossible to believe them."

"Never believe what they say. They made some effort and launched an attack between 1982 and 1984. But after that,  every time they prepared to launch an attack, they gave us advance warning."

"In that case do you mean to say that all those reports of clashes between border patrols and police with the MTA were all false?"

"Of course they had to make some half-hearted attempts to make it sound good. I'll give you an example. About July 1995, a truck full of anti-personal landmines and 3 to 4 tons of TNT explosives meant for the MTA was seized by the Police near Sala Chai Noi village in Mae Sai district of Thailand. But after a payment of 2 million bahts in the right quarters it didn't take a week for all this stuff to arrive intact and without mishap at Hoe Mein. So you see, anything is possible if you have the wherewithal to pay. Just take a look at the photographs I've given you and you'll see responsible officials of various organizations and departments who have made trips to and fro to our Hoe Mein headquarters."

A Thai citizen on a visit to U Khun Sa.

'Now, just a moment. Is it true that your MTA men were also hired out as merceneries?"

"In December 1977, the company that won the contract for constructing the Maesot, Ohn-Hpan motor road hired about 200 of our people for protection. At the time they had communist rebels plaguing them, so our men were hired to give protection. In addition to providing ammunitions, uniforms and rations, they were each paid 1,800 bahts a month. No: 8 Battalion, under its commanding officer was assigned this duty. There were I believe several clashes with the Thai communists." 

"By the way, I see pictures of KNU Bo Mya who keeps making wild accusations over the BBC that our Government refuses to fight you people. What was the purpose of his visits?" 

"He certainly visited us often. He's another fella who says many incoherent things to please the Americans. He came to Hoe Mein with Thai military intelligence personnel as escort. He came with palm outspread as was usually the case." 

"What kind of help did U Khun Sa give him?"

"I don't know the exact details. Even if he didn't give cash, he must have helped him in other ways. U Khun Sa never refuses help everyone knows that. You know it would be unending if I were to tell you what I know about the people who came to see U Khun Sa. So let's stop. O.K?"

U Khun Sa and Thai friends.

"Not yet. I still want to know the main reason you were able to exist and endure for so long on the border."

"I've told you so much, yet you still don't get it, do you? U Khun Sa is someone who, before 1977, was privileged to meet and hold discussions with the next-door Prime Minister. Now, what more do you need? To put it briefly and precisely, this was because he was able to pay monthly protection money, graft to put it bluntly,  to authorities at the border."

"Are you sure?" 

"There is not a single person concerned who would dare to deny it."

"Are you saying this with such certainty because it was your personal responsibility to make these payments?"

"Such petty jobs were not part of my duties. Clerks at  our liaison offices at Chiengmai, Mae Sai, Mae Hong Song, Chiengrai and Mae Ike did the job. I know about the payment in detail because just before the exchange of arms for peace took place, I was at the main office clearing up some accounts when I came across the file containing these receipts and I kept the file for future record."

"This certainly explains a lot. I don't think I need to ask you any more questions on this matter."

Just think about it. It is quite obvious that the MTA lasted  so long because it enjoyed so much protection and so many privileges. It is also evidently clear that while the MTA was being vilified and condemned loudly as a huge drug trafficking gang, the same people forged relationship and contacts with it, gave support and protection to gain profit for themselves. As soon as it became known that the MTA was going to rejoin lawful society, people profitting from it were clearly displeased to say the least. Indeed they were far from overjoyed at the news. That was one reason why a junior leader of the MTA, Ywet Sitt, refused to surrender and still remains on the drug trafficking trail. He and a few MTA left-overs have joined the old SURA insurgents and together are vociferously making demands in the cause of Shan nationalism. But they are actually engaged in illegal production and trafficking of both heroin and stimulant drugs.

A Thai citizen and Sann Aw
(now in prison in Thailand)

It has been discovered that a timber company of note of in the neighbouring country has begun purchasing necessary chemicals for refining opium for the use of  these remaining drug traffickers. If the same kind of help and assistance is going to be available for these people as it was to the MTA, then it can be safely predicted that very soon a third drug king is going to emerge in the region. For although the Government can control and bring about the eradication of opium in areas where peace now prevails, it would be difficult to do so where there is armed insurrection. The drug problem that arose in our country was intertwined with the armed insurrections and soon became a Gorgon's knot, almost impossible to unravel.

What I have written has not been motivated by a desire to denigrate or defame another country. I have highlighted important events concerning 1 drugs to remind those who have not practiced what they preached, that if they are earnest in their endeavours to eradicate drugs, then now is the time to cooperate with good will and sincerity to rid mankind of the menace of narcotic drugs.