I was not involved in anyway nor did I have any official
responsibility regarding the MTA's exchange of arms for peace. Nevertheless I was very much interested and it was worth the
interest. Because never before had there been such a historically momentous event. This interest made me bring up this topic for
discussions with my friend every time we met.
"How goes it my friend? I believe you went to Ka Thai Kwin yesterday. How is your agriculture project faring?"
"It's doing well. Departmental officials are giving all
necessary assistance. But you must understand this is an entirely new beginning for our MTA members. They don't have much
"Oh! I'm glad. The cottages built by the Government look
inviting too. You have adequate water and electricity supply and have been given 4 to 5 acre plots of land for cultivation. The land
has already been ploughed for you, seeds have been made available and you have been provided with cash to defray the cost
of cultivation. In addition you've been given living expenses to tide you over before the first crop can be harvested. What more do
"The Government is doing all it can, not just for regional
development. It's doing everything within its means to provide life's necessities, food, clothing and shelter for those who have
made peace agreements as well as for those who have chosen to exchange arms for peace."
"As I've already told you, because the Government's peace
initiatives were correct and there was good will, the people's desire for peace swelled and overwhelmed all parts of the country.
Didn't I tell you that this development played a principal role in the MTA's decision to exchange arms for peace?
"Yes you did. Now tell me how widespread and effective was this surge for the desire for peace."
"Beginning from the peace achieved in 1989 with the Kokang group which had split from the BCP, other armed groups
followed suit one after another. Finally, most of the armed groups in the vicinity
of the MTA had all accepted the peace pact. Isn't that so? So this led to a situation where the
people inhabiting the region didn't want to hear the sound of guns any longer. They too
started to long for peace. Then the idea of peace seeped into the minds of our MTA members. They also saw with their own eyes,
members of armed groups who had made peace, going about their business freely. So, I suppose, they began to question why they
were still continuing the fight and wonder why they too couldn't be in the same situation. Once these thoughts had entered their
heads some sort of transformation set in. I believe their will to fight had
The premises and signboards of offices.
"That's possible. It's human
"So at a time when the others had achieved peace and were now leading
untroubled lives, U Khun Sa miscalculated and made a decision that was a crucial
mistake from the military point of view."
"Do you mean the attack launched on Government military forces in the Mongkyut region that you mentioned earlier
"Yes of course ! That Peter Bourne, you know, the former advisor to
American President Carter was mainly responsible. U Khun Sa made the decision to
attack at his instigation."
"Are you certain it was at Peter
"Look my friend. Don't forget I was a member of the Central Committee, so
there are certain things I know not known to others in general. Although U Khun
Sa was declared a wanted criminal on narcotic drug charges by the U.S Government
in 1990, there were many Americans frequenting our headquarters. Peter Bourne's
visit of course was more significant. The Bangkok Post even quoted him as saying
that Khun Sa had the necessary force in both men and arms to set up an
independent Shan State. In fact, it was none other but Peter Bourne who had
urged U Khun Sa to adopt this political stance and fight the Government to
overcome his notoriety as a drug war lord and simultaneously gain
"These westerns are truly unprincipled and devious scoundrels. So what
happened when the attacks were launched?"
"It's as I told you. There had been small, unnoticeable changes in the
attitude of our men. This Mongkyut offensive was one we had launched. But
it was a battle that shouldn't have been undertaken at all. The number of dead
and wounded was much more than bargained for. "
Classrooms at Ho Mong.
"I read about it in the
newspapers that it was a fierce battle with heavy casualties on both sides. I
remember that much."
"Believe me the casualties exceeded the numbers mentioned in the papers.
The MTA forces deployed totaled about S,000. The attacks and counterattacks
lasted over a month from 11th May to 23rd June 1994. Over 800 of our troops were
killed in action and about 1,000 were wounded."
"Huh, that's a lot! "
"That's what I meant when I said he had miscalculated and committed a
grave military error that was also meaningless. In 1995 we had to continue the
fight in the Hpet Tu Mein region that resulted in about 300 more being killed
and about 400 wounded. I am mentioning only the more conspicuous clashes. It
doesn't include the dead or wounded in the small daily skirmishes with
Government Forces scattered all over the region."
"Well, you people were still in the thick of fighting at a time when
others had made peace and were leading a tranquil life. "
"We were fighting not only Government troops. In the Lwe Lan region we
often clashed with the ' Wa ' group up to the time we exchanged arms for
peace. During the 6 years that we fought with the ' Wa ' forces over 1300 of our
men were killed and I believe not less than 1500 were wounded."
"Such a large number of casualties must have resulted in loss of morale.
"It certainly did. I did say that defeat in battle was not one of the
principle factors that led to U Khun Sa's surrender but at the same time, the
prospects for future military action were not encouraging. U Khun Sa must have
foreseen that if we went ahead as we had been doing, the situation would only
have gone from bad to worse."
"I don't understand much about military affairs. But the Government's
peace initiatives were so effective and successful, the only enemy left in the
Shan State was your group. So my comrade, I think the Government Forces could
have finished you off in no time. "
"If it meant carrying on the fight to the bitter end, then there would
have been more dead and wounded. It was quite obvious by that time that the
Government Forces now had the upper hand. I'll give you an example. If there had
been a plan to attack our headquarters at Ho Mong previously, it would not have
been an easy matter. But by 1995, armed groups in the Kayah State had made
peace, so it would have been easy to launch an attack from the Kayah State. On
the Shan-Kayah border too, the Pa O group had made peace. So the Government
troops could have easily entered our headquarters from this
direction also. The Government troops could make an approach from Mong Kyut too,
since they already had the upper hand in the region. They could have blocked
movements of our troops on the west bank of the Thanlwin at any point along the
river. Under these unfavourable conditions our headquarters would have fallen
easily into Government hands. So from a military standpoint the conditions
prevalent at the time would have led only to our downfall. Then the defection of
the Shan group made the situation worse and put us in a more vulnerable
"Oh! That reminds me. I asked you the other day the reasons for the
defection of the Shans. Can you tell me more about that?"
"To understand the reasons for their defection you'll need to know a
little of the background history. You'll first need to know how the Shan group
joined U Khun Sa's Lwe Maw Group. To make it brief, when U Khun Sa was released
from prison under the General Amnesty in 1976, he arrived at the Thai border
where the underground Lwe Maw group was based. After his arrival this
underground group was reorganized as the Shan United Army (SUA)
After attacking the small remnant KMT Chinese encamped in this area, they
managed to gain a foothold. In the same way, they attacked the 'Wa' (WNA) in the
Mai Aw region and gained control of more territory. This was how it became
stronger. He also managed to persuade the Shan.
United Revolutionary Army (SURE) led by
Moe Hein to join him. This led to the formation of the Mong Tai Army (MTA). In
1990, he persuaded another Shan group, the Shan State Army (SSA ) led by Naw
Mein Gyi to join forces. So by combining the forces of the original Lwe Maw
Group, the SURE and the SSA, the MTA grew in military strength. It was a large
armed group composed of a number of different factions. This, as you know, is a
potential cause for future disagreement and disintegration."
"Wasn't it a voluntary alliance made with the agreement of all
"Well you know what this involves. There are always those in favour of
joining forces and those who were obliged to join due to various circumstances.
Although they had joined forces each group had its own national outlook and
political ideology. The number of Sino - Shans in the MTA was not large. Most
members were pure Shan like me, say about 90% of the MTA members."
"As far as I know your MTA slogan is in the cause of a Shan State and the
"The slogan is just that, a slogan. But there had always been basic
underlying differences. Added to the political and ideological differences,
there was also a certain feeling of racial discontent among the Shans."
"But you Shans were in the majority."
"The Shans were not given key positions and key posts.
Any post given to a Shan was more as less nominal. The Shans began to feel that
all the ranking jobs went to the members of the Lwe Maw. You see, from the
beginning there was mistrust between the Lwe Maw and the Shans and that could
have been why the Shans were not given important posts. The key posts all went
to the Sino - Shans. The punishment meted out to the MTA members was also not
the same. Furthermore only Shans were conscripted as soldiers and only Shan
villages were singled out for robbing and killing and torture. Seeing all this,
resentment started to simmer among the Shans. In the end they started to brood
about all this and arrived at the conclusion that the MTA had done nothing to
promote the Shan national cause. That all they would be left with was the notoriety of being
members of an infamous drug trafficking gang, with nothing to show but Shan
lives sacrificed in the interest of Sino-Shans."
"Talking about drug trafficking, how much money did you, my friend, manage to
"Don't joke about this. I have yet to see even a grain of heroin. The
people in charge of this heroin trade do not include even a single Shan.
So now you should understand"
"But you are a Shan yourself. So I must ask you not to exaggerate in favour of the Shans."
"This is not an exaggeration. It's the actual truth. All this discontent
and resentment finally led to the defection of political commissar of No. 16
Brigade Kan Ywet with a force of about 200 men in June, 1995."
"I heard about this. I heard that the MTA gave chase to attack this
splinter group. I also heard that another commanding officer about to defect was
caught and executed."
"Yes, after that the divisiveness became worse."
"At the time Kan Ywet also issued an announcement and distributed it to
the villages in the region."
"Yes. The announcement included statements that the Shan State National
Army (SSNA) had been formed and that his group would establish peace and work
for regional development. He called on all Shan nationals to join their group.
The announcement was written in both Myanmar and Shan. Not long afterwards, many
Shan members left the MTA to join him, so much so that the strength of the SSNA
grew to nearly 3,000. U Khun Sa had to really make an effort to prevent further
defection and the collapse of the MTA.'
"Well it happens! look at the KNU. The Democratic Kayin Buddhist
Associatiol1 (DKBA) members left the KNU in droves."
"After all this, suspicion filled
the air. No one could trust any other. And on top of all this, the groups that
had defected turned on the MTA and attacked it in some areas. The problems were
thus compounded and there was a lot of confusion."
"Naturally on the one hand the military prospects were not bright, having
suffered severe losses, and on the other hand there was this internal
disintegration. It must have been a real predicament."
"As I told you from the beginning, after the State Law and Order
Restoration Council assumed State responsibilities U Khun Sa's mental attitude
and convictions started to waver. Then the advent of your Government's political
policy that led to the peace initiatives plus the military superiority made him
weaken so much in his resolve that he nearly toppled then. But the last straw
that broke the camel's bock so to speak was the wholesale defection of the Shan
members of his MTA. I think by now you will have fully grasped the many factors
that made U Khun Sa decide to exchange arms for peace. It's enough for to day my
friend. Time to rest."
"You always stop when it begins to get really exciting and interesting.
I'm eager to know how this exchange of arms for peace was brought about. "
"I'll continue later when we have the time."