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/* Posted 14 Sep 6:00am 1995 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx(DR U NE OO) in igc:reg.burma */
/* -------------" The Advertiser: THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS "------------ */

[The  Advertiser  is  one  of  the  local  newspaper  for  Adelaide,  South

The Advertiser: 9 September 1995, pp26

Story: Nick Cater News Ltd Asia Bureau

He is known as the Pablo Escobar of Asia. But is the world's biggest heroin
dealer about to retire ?

NAME: Chang Chifu aka Khun Sa
BORN: 1934 in the Shan State to a Shan mother and a Chinese father.
EDUCATION: Basic monastic.
CAREER: Became an outlaw at the age of 16. Entered the  opium  business  in
1963  while commanding a unit under the command of the Burmese Army. Jailed
from 1969 to 1974  and  released  in  exchange  for  two  kidnapped  Soview
doctors.  Set  up  the separatist Shan United Army in northern Thailand but
forced across the border to Homong in 1982. Named himself president in late
HOBBIES: Drinking, disco dancing, karaoke

        Time may be running out, at last, for Asia's  most  notorious  drug
worlord,  Khun Sa - the rebel identified as Australia's biggest supplier of
heroin. The man once branded by a United  States  diplomat  as  "the  worst
enemy  the  world  has"  says  he  is retiring after being squeeezed by the
Burmese Government Army and from opponents within his own ranks.

But intelligence sources are sceptical that the world has seen the last  of
Khun  Sa  -  a dictatorial, charismatic 61 year old who commands one of the
best equipped rebel armies in Asia.

"He's like a mad dog." one Thai intelligence source says. "You can put  him
in a box but you don't expect him oto stop biting."

For  two  decades,  KHun  Sa  has  been  the unchallenged ruler of the Shan
fiefdom in Burma's wild north east, where fields of opium poppies  grow  as
far as the eye can see, and beyond.

It is the heart of the Golden triangle - the border region straddling Burma
Thailand  and  Laos,  where  65  percent  of the world's opium is grown and

It is by far the largest source of heroin bound for Australia and  Khun  Sa
dominates the market.

A  year  ago, in one of Australia's biggest seizures of hard drugs, Customs
officers discovered 120 kg of herion,  aboard  a  Thai  fishing  vessel  in
Darwin  Harbor, which intelligence reports said had come from Khun SA. " He
doesn't  exaactly  stamp his trademark on  it but there are ways of telling
where it came from, " one Australian anti-narcotics officer says.

Khun Sa, a flamboyant  and skilful self publicist, describes himself  as  a
freedom  fighter  rather  than  a  drug baron, saying he is fighting for an
independent Shan State.

He claims that he only "taxes" opium  traffickers  and  does  not  grow  it

But  in  the US, where he has been indicted for trying to export 1.6 tonnes
of herion between 1986 and 1988,  Drug  Enforcement  Agency  officers  have
labelled him the world's most wanted drug trafficker - the Pablo Escobar of

His  wealthe  and influence is apparent in his prosperous headquarters town
of Homong, in burma's Shan State, close to the border with Thailand.

It is a thriving market town of 20,000  people,  with  good  roads  lit  at
night,  a school, Buddhist monastery and modern hospital. There are hotels,
discos and karaoke bars.

Khun Sa himself is said to be fond of a drink and enjoys disco dancing.  He
is  driven around the town in a ute, armed bodyguards packed into the rear.
His 15,000 strong private Mong  Tai  Army  boasts  a  formidable  array  of
weapons,  bought  in the world arms bazaar using profits from drug exports.
There are Russian and  chinesemade  AK47s,  American  M16  assault  fifles,
grenade launchers, mortars and 50 calibre anti aircraft guns.

Late  last  year,  Thai  border police seized a consigment of sophisticated
surface-to-air missiles believed destined for Khun Sa's forces.

People who have met  him  describe  Khun  Sa  as  charming  and  witty.  He
describes  himself as "happy go lucky", not at all the "prince of darkness"
his opponents have labelled him.

His adopted Shan name translates as "prosperous prince"  -  an  appropriate
tag,  given  the  hundreds of millions of dollars he is said to have reaped
from the drug trade.

A wanted man in Thailand, Burma and China, he claims to  have  evaded  more
than 40 attempts on his life.

Born  as Chang Chifu in 1934 to a Shan mother and father , Khun Sa received
only a scant education before becoming an outlaw at the age of 16. He began
trading opium in 1963 as a commander of a unit under  the  command  of  the
Burmese  army  based  in the poppy growing region near Loi Maw mountain, in
the northern Shan State.

But he was arrested in 1969 under suspicion of having secret dealings  with
rebel  groups. His release in 1974 was in exchange for two kidnapped Soview
doctors held hostage by the rebels.

Khun Sa took to the jungle, establisheng a base fo his Shan United Army  in
north-west  Thailand. But his blatant drug dealing was an embarrassment for
the Thais, who forced him back into Burma in  January,  1982.  Three  years
later,  Khun  Sa's  SUA merged with the Tai Revolutionary Council forces of
veteran Shan independence fighter Moh Hong, forming the MTA.

In december, 1993, he convened a Shan "parliament", announcing  himself  as
president as well as commander-in-chief of the army. But, despite the NTA's
firepower,  Khun  SA's  forces  now  find themselves on the back foot after
aconcerted 18 month assault by forces of Burma's ruling State Law and Order
Restoration Council.

For SLORC, the attack on Khun Sa's empire has little to do with heroin. The
regime is more concerned about removing one of the last significant  pocket
of insurgency while, at the same time, currying favor with the US.

Meanwhile,  the tightening of Thai border controls is restricting KHun Sa's
suppplies of arms.

And there are reports of large-scale defections from  the  MTA  as  younger
Shan rebels grow impatient for independence and disillusined with KHun Sa's
obsession with the drug trade.

It  was  against  that background that KHun Sa announced late last month he
would be stepping down as army chief and handing over to a  respected  Shan
nationalist. Few observers are convinced by the manoeuvre, nowever.

One  Western  source  in  Bangkok  compares Khun Sa's retirement to that of
China's Deng Xiaoping in 1989 - he may nave formally  left  office  but  he
still wields the power.

"It's all smoke and mirrors. Nothing has really changed," the sources says.

Even  if  KHun  Sa falls from power, there is little hope it will make much
differene to the 2500 tonnes of  opium  flowing  each  year  from  northern

With the trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars, experts believe other
Golden Triangle warlords will be quick to take his place.