Did U Khun Sa's MTA Exchange Arms
I had read about MTA leader U Khun Sa in many newspaper and magazine articles, so I was fairly well-informed about him. But his decision to surrender unconditionally in exchange for peace can be called a truly courageous decision. If you think about whatever the circumstances, he was in fact king of his domain. That he was cock of the walk cannot be denied. From what has been reported and written about him, he was extremely wealthy and said to be living in the lap of luxury. So to obtain peace, he did have to sacrifice both power and wealth. As to his age he was just a little over sixty with quite a number years left in which to revel in a life of comfort. So what had impelled him to opt for an exchange of arms for peace? So I began to wonder about what powerful reasons and emotions had stirred up his heart enough to convince him to exchange arms for peace. I raised this question with my friend.
" My friend I'm really interested and curious about why your leader U Khun Sa arrived at this decision to exchange arms for peace. There are so many things I want to know. You lived and worked closely with him for such a long time, you much surely know a lot about him.''
" I know reading is your hobby and you probably have some literary aspirations, so do you intend to reap some cash profit out of this? "
" That isn't so. But you know I just had a fleeting thought would I, if I were in his place, even think about exchanging arms for peace? Ha! ha! ha!"
"If you look at the situation from the ordinary, superficial point of view, there's no way one could make such a sacrifice. But when so many factors converge to make urgent demands on you a person will ultimately reach the same decision he did to make such a sacrifice no matter who, be it you or me in his place."
"Are you trying to tell me that he was somehow propelled by some external forces to exchange arms for peace?" ''I wouldn't exactly put it like that, but the demands of some external factors, his own inclination and yes, his courage and determination, combined together led to his decision."
"What do you mean by external factors?"
"Hey go step by step with your questioning. Your first question was about U Khun Sa, right?"
"OK. OK. I got carried away I suppose. But please go on. Go on."
"Yes, sure, I know that.''
"Anyway I'll try to make my assessment as fair and close to the truth as possible. You already know about past events and facts about his past. What you can't possibly know were the changes that took place latterly in his outlook and situation."
"That's right my friend, that's it. What I want to know most about are his reasons for exchanging arms for peace."
"You know ever since the State Law and Order Restoration Council assumed State Power, he watched the Government's telecasts, daily. He was observing and studying the Government's professed goals and actions taken"
"Aw !" "Don't tell me, you in your jungle hide out had access to TV broadcasts."
"Don't be naive, do you think U Khun Sa's headquarters was just a huddle of rickety huts, like the scenes shown in your teleplays. The more than 1000 buildings that made up our headquarters were planned and laid out in accordance to town planning specifications and requirements. There isn't a single bamboo hut, and water and electrical power supplies are available 24 hours a day. We also had 20 phones with international access (IDD phones . So don't even talk about TV."
"O.K, O K. Just continue."
"About 2 years after the State Law and Order Restoration Council assumed power, U Khun Sa's way of thinking and attitude began to change. The main cause was the implementation of the peace initiatives by the Government. We acknowledged the fact that once the military government had given it's word it has never failed to follow up with the appropriate action and that it was a government that worked indefatigably."
" Do you mean to tell me that this was what made him exchange arms for peace?"
" No, how can it be? Even though he realized all this he launched a large-scale attack on Government Forces at the instigation of this person Peter Bourne. I'll tell you about this later. But as I said, about two years after the State Law and Order Restoration Council came into power, he began to seriously think about whether he wanted to end his life as a drug lord."
" Is that possible? At the time in Ho Mong, he had you know, what we call Queen of the Southern Chamber and Queen of
the Northern Chamber and so forth, Ha! Ha! Ha!"
" Well then, as I said, U Khun Sa had begun to think along these lines. He had this
desire to close the last chapter of his life with a good name to remove the black
marks of the MTA by doing something good and worthwhile for the country. To put it another
way, he wanted his life to end on a good historical note. He then began to wonder about a suitable time to put his intentions to the
test. After studying the activities and achievements of the State Law and Order Restoration Council he
decided the time was ripe for him if he wished to end his life on a positive note."
Leaving that aside, it was quite
obvious that this Government was not a stooge of the western bloc and that it
would never take orders from the west. So, to be frank, this Government which
regarded U Khun Sa as the No. 1 enemy would never give in to the American
Government's demand that he be handed over to them. It was obvious the
Government would certainly not comply with such a demand. He was firmly
convinced of that. There was another thing he used to repeat quite often. He
frequently said that this was a Government that kept its word and did what it
said it would."
" To be quite honest U Khun Sa is a Buddhist in name only. He himself donated and built a pagoda at Ho Mong MTA headquarters. He established a large teaching monastery with over 100 members of the Sangha. He sponsored and encouraged all this and made plans to build both the pagoda and the monastery himself. He also took the lead in the celebrations of traditional Buddhist festivals. But it was not out of any deep conviction or understanding. But after he had entered his sixties I suppose you could say he had begun to show some interest. But, I can tell you with absolute certainty that it was not religion that made him repent and exchange arms for peace.
" Then is it because he is now a
millionaire as we have heard? "
"How can that be? He was so
" In that case I'll
have to explain how the money was earned. You already know about the proceeds
from drug trafficking. But there are still things you are not aware of. We
earned a lot of money from timber. Then there was the sale of gems when the gem
mines at Mongshu started production. Gems w ere smuggled out to Thailand and
there was a thriving daily gem market at our headquarters in Ho Mong. That
included jade too of course. We were paid a commission and could also
participate in the trading. Smuggling of cattle daily brought in a four-figure
income. We also levied taxes on other contraband. In same cases taxes were
extorted from the village to township level. So there a was vast total income
"About 2 years before our surrender our Ho Mong head-quarters was rebuilt as a city in accordance to city planning rules and relations and the cost came up to about 300,000 bahts. An all season dam for water supply and hydro-electric power was built at a cost of 12 million bahts. The hospital cost another 24 million bahts. Then there were new roads, a market, a park as well as residential housing for members to be paid for. The cost was enormous."
"Hey you're talking
about building a whole city."
" So then go ahead and convince me."
" Wait, I'll come to that. The MTA did not surrender because of military defeat. Nor was it because U Khun Sa had vast wealth. It was neither religious atonement nor an act of repentance. Nor had some other country exerted pressure on him to surrender. First your Government laid down what I suppose could be called its National Policy in the form of the Three Principal National Tasks. Then it worked tirelessly for national unity and solidarity and opened the way to peace. The effect of these actions, which we think were right and proper, spread nationwide and exerted appositive influence on the people. It also affected U Khun Sa's thinking in a very positive way. He was getting on in years and was pondering the best way to exit life when the time came and this coincided with the calls for peace. It changed his whole outlook. So this could be the principle factor that later led to the exchange of arms for peace."
" I'm keen to know about the other
contributing factors but you keep going back to the main motive. "
" Don't be hasty, wait a moment.
Let me continue what I was saying. The idea of exchanging arms for peace by then
had begun to germinate in U Khun Sa's mind. Added to this, the defection of Kan
Ywet with quite a few Shan members of the MTA was indeed the last straw. It was
at this point that U Khun Sa began preparations for the exchange of arms for
peace. That's about enough for today. I think, it's time for a break."