heads some sort of transformation set in


Did U Khun Sa’s MTA Exchange Arms

 for Peace

Part IV

The fact that many of the Shan members defected from the MTA in June 1995 did not weaken the MTA to the

verge of collapse. At the time that the MTA exchanged arms for peace, it still had a force of about 15,000. So if U

Khun Sa had elected not to surrender but carry on the fight, he may not have been able

to establish military superiority but he could certainly have maintained the status quo for a certain period of time. He had the

manpower and firepower with an adequate arsenal of weapons and ammunitions. But I’m now convinced that, as my friend had 

pointed out, this was a period in his life when a desire to exit life on a favorable

historical note was incubating in his mind. Moreover, he had become convinced that the Government was

acting in good faith. Added to these positive considerations was the fact that he was having to contend with the aftermath of the

recent, unprofitable military losses and the divisiveness brought on by the Shan defections. All this I’m now sure, came together to

a point that caused him to decide to exchange arms for peace. But this was for me, not yet a complete picture, for I still needed to

know the means by which this complex objective was accomplished. According to my friend, there were those in the

MTA who approved of this action and others who did not. Moreover, the majority of the MTA members learnt of this

decision only before the actual exchange of arms for peace. Yet the surrender took place without a hitch with troops

stationed in distant places, docilely coming in to give up their arms, one group

after another. I was eager to know how this had been accomplished so smoothly. It prompted me to question my friend on this matter

when next I met him. 

“The other day we had to cut short our conversation just when my interest had reached a high pitch. So go on please

with how the exchange of arms was so peacefully and successfully effected. ” 

“I must say you are now fully qualified to earn your livelihood as a journalist. You know how to conduct an

interview.  Ha! Don’t worry, I’ll tell you. You will come to understand how

difficult it was only if I explain to you how it was achieved. After  U Khun Sa became convinced that this course of action was

right he chose and contacted a citizen whom he could trust and who could also approach the Government as mediator. ” 

Who was this person and when did U Khun Sa choose him as



Defence fortifications at Lwe


Don’t rush me my friend. You sound as if you’re interrogating someone accused of a crime. He was a merchant from Tachilek and a native of Lwe Maw. U Khun Sa stayed in his house and attended school when he was leader of the Lwe Maw Defence

Militia, someone he knew intimately. So U Khun Sa wrote to this person and they met at the Headquarters. That was about 2 years

before the actual surrender. He told this man then to think of necessary ways and means just in case the MTA like the other

armed groups, should decide on a peace accord with the Government at some time in the future.” 

“The surge of the Government’s peace initiatives was really over whelming, wasn’t it? “

“Definitely. As I’ve often told you, although U Khun Sa did attack Mong Kyut and other places at the instigation of

others, the idea of ” peace ” had occupied a corner of his mind. Having had such forethought, once he had made up

his mind in 1995, he summoned this mediator to Headquarters and gave him a letter

written by U Khun Sa himself, to  be delivered to top military leaders. ”

“What did the letter say?”

“The letter stated that he wished to give up his arms to the Government

and how he now wished to lead the life of an ordinary citizen. He also asked this mediator to relay some verbal messages.

We came to know of all these developments later. At the time we didn’t know a thing. It was all very hush, hush.” 

“Of course! It would have done no good if such news had leaked out.

“The mediator was also a very circumspect and capable person. He contacted the Military Intelligence and delivered

both the written and verbal messages without the news leaking out. He made an all out

effort to reach the Secretary  1. “

”Did this start the ball rolling for the surrender?”


Defence fortifications at Lwe


”It wasn’t that simple. This was no child’s play. It was a crucially important matter, so

contact only through the mediator wan’ t enough. Later U Khun Sa’s most trusted lieutenants

accompanied the mediator to meet with representatives of the Directorate of Military Intelligence. Meetings and discussions were

held at various appointed places. So from the time contact was made till the surrender took place, there was a lot of comings and

goings and many more discussions took place during the five months before the actual surrender.” 

“Where was the need for such prolonged discussions? It was a case of just laying down arms.”

“Now you’re being naive ! U Khun Sa was notorious world wide as a drug king. No doubt he was surrendering, but

the Government was sure that there would inevitably be criticisms and attacks from international sources as well as

from within the country. There was also a possibility that some groups might attempt to disrupt the plans made.”

“Yes, right. But let me interrupt and ask you a question. You know, the common citizen’s speculation is that U Khun

Sa must have surrendered so easily because of some give and take agreement with the Government. So what about that?”

“There was no such thing my friend. Since contact was made and discussions began the Government stipulated three

conditions that were not by any means negotiable.

One: “All arms must be surrendered”.

Two: “The MTA group

must be dissolved and at no future time was any member to have any links to the drug trade.” and, Three: “All MTA

members were to strictly abide by and live according to arrangements made by the

Government.” The Government made it clear that the exchange of arms would proceed only if the MTA could meet these


“So what pledges did U Khun Sa make? “

“U Khun Sa not only wrote letters, he even made a video film. He stated that unlike the other armed national groups

that had made peace, he would set an example by handing over unconditionally, all the men and arms of the MTA to

the Government and that he had arrived at this decision only after consultations with his top aides. He also said he

wished to expedite the surrender as soon as possible before other internal and external factions had a chance to

sabotage the whole plan.” 

“In that case why did it take so long? Why didn’t he just do it and be done with it?”

“Trust and confidence have to be built up on both sides. It’s not a matter of a small clique of 4 or 5 members who

can just up and surrender after arriving at a decision. This was a large organization of over 15,000 men. There was

also some divisiveness over racial issues. Hostilities were still raging with the ‘ Wa’ group in the Lwe Lan region and

also with government troops scattered over a wide area. We also had to seriously

consider possible interference and intrigue by foreign countries hostile to us. If we did not make meticulous plans and

arrangements there would have been confusion and  chaos.”

“Yeah! I suppose that’s true. I understand and agree with what you have said so far. But what do you mean exactly

when you use the terms external manipulation and intrigue.” 

“Explaining that is bound to take up some time. To put it briefly, our country does produce black opium. That you

already know. But we did not invent the method of processing heroin. Our people did not have the technical

know-how to process heroin. The white Chinese (Kuomintang) started the whole business. Nor

does our country produce the necessary chemicals for processing heroin. So think about it. Who would be involved in the refining

of opium?” 

“They must be foreigners.”

”Right you are. Now take your thinking a step farther. Would it be easy for the people in our country to come to our

jungle hide-outs to set up opium refineries? Who would come? only people from some country adjacent to us would

come over for such an undertaking. Moreover they can buy all the chemicals they need and want in their own country

and then smuggle the stuff in. Next, the shortest and easiest routes to transport the heroine produced to western

countries are also on their side of the border. Isn’t that so?”  “Mm…mm. But

I’ve heard that this particular country gets the most assistance and aid from America for narcotic drug

control .”  

“It is what we call a ‘double cropping’, or having your cake and eating it too. Do you understand me? As for our

country, the only profit we get is a bad name. The real profits are reaped by the scoundrels of this neighbouring country. We sell the

black opium and they come along with the capital to set up heroin refineries. We provide them security in the border areas under our

control and for giving them protection we are paid certain percentage as fees and revenue. When this black opium turns

“white” its price has gone up. Then through their contacts and agents this heroin is distributed. So tell me. Who gets the greater


“This is really an eye-opener. I now understand what you mean.”

“They keep saying its Khun Sa’s group, its Khun Sa and his gang and point the finger at us. Their country benefits by

way of foreign assistance for narcotic drug control yet the real profiteers are their citizens who are involved in the

drug trade. But if we were no longer around it would hurt their operations. So if they had found out about our plans

to exchange arms for peace there’s no telling what they would have done. One couldn’t be

sure they would not have tried to thwart our plans.”

“Yes, that’s true.”

“Then there are those western bloc nations yelling at the top of their voices about the drug king. Yet it was people

from this country who made frequent visits to our headquarters. That’s for sure. You must have read about how the

CIA was the real manipulator behind the drug scene. So who could be sure these western bloc nations weren’t doing

a double-deal?” 

“Yes – you’ve really cleared this up for me.”

“That’s why U Khun Sa, from the first time he established contact with the Government until the time of the

surrender, kept everything under wraps. I think the Armed Forces Directorate of Intelligence which had a greater

responsibility and had far more information, had to take extra care to guard secrecy. 

These secret discussions were carried on till December 1995 when

one of the leaders of the MTA who was also a close relative of U Khun Sa was dispatched to Yangon by a jungle trail after

informing the Military Intelligence authorities. Not long afterwards on 30th December, a delegation of the Armed Forces Intelligence

arrived at the Headquarters. ” 

“Had a cease – fire been declared then?”

“Not yet. Skirmishes were still going on. “

“So how had this intelligence delegation come through?”

“By the same jungle trail. Word had been sent on ahead of course. They came from Linkhai to the Than Lwin river

bank and once they had crossed over, our outposts in the area were told that a group of traders friendly with U

Khun Sa had come to see him. They were then escorted to our headquarters. ” 

“My goodness! From Linkhai to Ho Mong is no mean distance.”

“That’s right. They had to travel through jungle, alternately on foot and by boat. The very night the delegation

arrived, meetings were held and discussions took place with U Khun Sa and Chief of Staff U Kyan Hsu Shin. ”  

“At the time did all of you know that a surrender of arms was imminent?”

“To be quite honest, except for the top level leaders, nobody knew anything. “

“It’s really a wonder how no mishaps occurred. “

“I suppose one could say that planning on both sides had been meticulous and flawless.” 

“That’s perfectly true. Now do go on. What took place when U Khun Sa and the intelligence delegation met?”

“I believe the leader of the delegation first made known the position and attitude of the Secretary 1. How because. 

“He had full trust and confidence in U Khun Sa he had accordingly assumed total responsibility in

submitting the full situation to the Leader of the State. That this delegation had been dispatched in the conviction that much could be

achieved and that it would be successful in its mission. That it was also a demonstration of our trust in U Khun Sa.

Thus, if this mission should result in failure then he the Secretary 1 would assume sole responsibility and tender his resignation. He said he also took full responsibility for U Khun Sa’s safety and security. “

“Based on this pledge, the discussions proceeded. It is said that at this point U Khun Sa was visibly moved. “

“Why? Was it because it meant surrender?”


The medical ward and surgical

room at Lwe Lan.

“How superficial can you get? He was so deeply moved because of the magnanimity of the country’s leaders. That was

why he vowed that not a hair of any member of the delegation would be hurt and that he would do his best to effect

the surrender without a drop of blood being shed. And he at once began preparations. “

“Isn’t it a fact that the surrender took place five or six days after the visit of the intelligence delegation?”

“You see only the surrender and not the enormous will and effort that made it possible. Don’t forget our manpower

of 15,000 wasn’t concentrated in one place. They were deployed over quite a large expanse of territory. On the

eastern bank of the Than Lwin we had forces still engaged in hostilities with the ” Wa ” in

Lwe Lan / Lwe Ton, Mone Taw/ Mone Hta and Ho Mong regions. On the west bank we had troops stationed in many areas of both

northern and southern Shan State. In such a set up, if some intrigue or plot had succeeded, chaos could have erupted with 

MTA members turning on each other or some defecting without turning in their weapons. That is why planning had to be

water – tight and foolproof before the surrender. Just two or three day after the

conclusion of the discussions with the intelligence delegation, army battalions and units began entering the Ho Mong region and the

Lwe Lan / Lwe Toon regions almost simultaneously. This was followed by the entry of Government Forces into the Mone Tawt /

Mone  Hta region.”

“Hey, didn’t that cause armed clashes since their weapons hadn’t yet been surrendered and many still had no inkling

that a surrender was in the offing?”

“It was indeed a precarious situation truly very dangerous. The MTA troops had however been told that a

discussion was to be held with the Government and that Government troops would be deployed in the region for

security reasons. But, if even one small company had disobeyed and opened fire the situation could have turned

sour. As it was MTA troops were withdrawn from strategic points and returned to

headquarters. The Government Forces then came in to occupy positions thus vacated. It wasn’t an easy job. It was just as well that both

parties had planned and coordinated the arrangements most carefully. There was no problem at our Ho Mong Headquarters.

But there were some difficulties in the Lwe Lan area.” 

“Did the MTA attack the incoming Government Forces?”

“No, no. The fighting was between the MTA and ‘ Wa ‘ it was fierce. They had attacked the defence positions of

the MTA. Military Intelligence groups had to make their way through these clashes to contact the MTA, and once

contact had been established they had to hold discussions to take appropriate action. But when

it came to replacing MTA positions with Government troops the ‘Wa’ refused to give in and even stepped up their attacks. In some 

places Government troops had to take up the MTA positions during these attacks. The Government troops suffered

casualties in the ‘ Wa’ attack, but they did not return fire. Instead every effort was made to contact the ‘Wa ‘ and

request them to withhold fire. Somehow they had to be persuaded not to continue fighting.” 

“Goodness gracious, it surely wasn’t a piece of cake was it?”

“No it wasn’t. In fact five members of the Government Forces were killed in action and six were wounded” 

“It seems to me that whether one is trying to make peace or trying to surrender you are still beset with many

difficulties and life and blood have to be sacrificed.”

“Yes, the Armed Forces made sacrifices in life and limb of its men for the sake of peace. In the same way MTA

men gave up their lives in the Lwe Lan region so that the surrender could take place smoothly and