The Secret Army: Chiang Kai-Shek and the Drug Warlords of the Golden Triangle

The Secret Army: Chiang Kai-Shek and the Drug Warlords of the Golden Triangle

The Secret Army: Chiang Kai-Shek and the Drug Warlords of the Golden Triangle

The Secret Army: Chiang Kai-Shek and the Drug Warlords of the Golden Triangle

Excerpt

The origins of this book date from January 1990, when I was the American Consul General in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A colleague and I were travelling a recently graded, little used road along Thailand’s northern border with Burma. The road runs immediately adjacent to the border until a few kilometers west of Doi Mae Salong and then continues eastward as the border curves to the north. The cool air carried sound easily and we could hear distant explosions of mortar rounds from Burma. The ongoing battle was between two drug trafficking armies contesting control of that portion of the border and its smuggling routes. The United Wa State Army (UWSA), then loosely allied with the Burmese armed forces, or Tatmadaw, was at war with the Shan United Army (SUA) of Sino-Shan drug kingpin Chiang Ch’i-fu, better known by his Shan nom de guerre Khun Sa. We had driven to the border to gather information and report on that fight.

We reached the mountaintop village of Ban Mae Salong, originally established by remnants of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) army that retreated into Burma and Thailand following the communist victory on the Chinese Mainland. On a wooded slope near the mountain’s peak, we stopped for lunch at the Sakura Hotel, a ramshackle collection of bungalows and a restaurant owned by Lei Yu-tien. After Tuan Hsiwen’s death in 1980, Lei Yu-tien assumed leadership of the remnants of his KMT Fifth Army. Our lunch finished, we returned to our vehicle and continued along a winding road through wooded countryside en route to Chiang Rai city.

Descending the mountain, we passed a security post manned by khaki-uniformed, armed members of Lei Yu-tien’s private militia. Despite diplomatic license plates and a prominent whip radio antenna, our large Toyota Land Cruiser prompted only passing interest from the young men on duty. Armed with shotguns, Lei Yu-tien’s militiamen could be seen patrolling the village and environs much as Thailand’s national . . .

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