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Burma Clash Kills 23 as Rebels Hunt

Subject: Burma Clash Kills 23 as Rebels Hunt for Loot

Monday April 21 10:40 AM EDT 

Burma Clash Kills 23 as Rebels Hunt for Loot

BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuter) - A clash between Burmese soldiers and rebels
searching for the
weapons and hidden treasure of former opium warlord Khun Sa killed 23 people
and wounded
dozens, Thai and rebel sources said Monday. 

The clash took place on April 10 between troops and rebels from the Shan
United Revolution Army
(SURA), a Thai security source said. 

About 500 guerrillas attacked two Burmese army jungle bases near Ho Mong,
Khun Sa's former
stronghold. Ten Burmese soldiers died in the fighting and about 40 were
wounded, the source said. 

"(SURA commander) Colonel Yod Suk said three months ago he would come for
Khun Sa's hidden
weapons and if the Burmese intercepted they would fight," the source said. 

Guerrilla sources said SURA has about 5,000 fighters. 

The SURA sources confirmed the fighting and said that 13 guerrillas were
also killed and 17
wounded in the day-long fighting at a base about 15 miles northeast of Ho Mong. 

Ho Mong, on the edge of Shan state about 14 miles from the Thai border, used
to house more than
10,000 civilians and guerrillas during the peak of Khun Sa's power in the

Khun Sa, half Shan and half Chinese, once commanded about 20,000 Mong Tai
Army (MTA)
guerrillas and said he was fighting for the freedom of Shan state. But he
was accused of using the
MTA as his personal troops to protect his heroin business in the Golden
Triangle where Laos,
Thailand and Burma meet. 

A U.S. court indicted Khun Sa on heroin trafficking charges in December
1989, and Washington
has requested his extradition to face charges in the United States. 

But Burma's military government has refused the request, saying it will deal
with Khun Sa under
Burmese law. 

Khun Sa surrendered to Burmese troops in January 1996 and Ho Mong has since
become a ghost
town. He is said to be living a life of luxury in Rangoon and running
several business in Burma. 

The rebel sources said they had heard that Khun Sa hid weapons, jewelry and
gold in Ho Mong
before he surrendered. 

"The former MTA officers who are now with us knew that there was treasure
hidden there before
Khun Sa surrendered," a SURA source told Reuters. 

The source would not say how much treasure was believed to be hidden in the
jungle, but said Khun
Sa had handed over only about one-tenth of the MTA's weapons when he gave
himself up. 

The MTA disbanded after Khun Sa's surrender. 

"Khun Sa does not totally trust Burma so he hid valuables and weapons before
his surrender, and
reliable sources say most of his money is still in banks in Thailand," the
source said. 

The Thai security source was not able to confirm the hidden treasure but
said many weapons were
believed to have been hidden in Ho Mong. 

"Our information shows that Khun Sa acquired about 110 SAMS (surface to air
missiles), but he
handed over only seven when he surrendered, so the rest must be hidden," the
Thai source said.