Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Lo Hsing Han, 80, Myanmar Kingpin and Tycoon

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Lo Hsing Han, 80, Myanmar Kingpin and Tycoon

Article excerpt

Thought to be one of the country's richest men and a key financier of the military officers who ruled until two years ago, Mr. Lo was also allegedly one of the world's biggest traffickers of heroin.

Lo Hsing Han, an opium and heroin trafficker who became one of Myanmar's richest men and a potent symbol of the impunity of the country's drug warlords, has died, according to a paid obituary in Myanmar's state media on Monday.

Mr. Lo, 80, died Saturday in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, according to the advertisement in the Burmese-language edition of The New Light of Myanmar. An officer with the country's special branch of the national police force said Mr. Lo died of a stroke.

From his humble beginnings in the hills of northern Myanmar bordering China, Mr. Lo rose to become what the administration of President Richard M. Nixon called the "kingpin of the heroin traffic in Southeast Asia." Mr. Lo used his drug profits to build a shady corporate empire under the name Asia World, a conglomerate that remains one of the largest in Myanmar today under the leadership of his son, Stephen Law.

During Mr. Lo's years as a warlord in the 1960s and 1970s, heroin from Myanmar, then known as Burma, was widely trafficked in cities across Europe and the United States.

Mr. Lo, who was ethnically Chinese, commanded a militia of 3,000 men in the impoverished borderlands of northern Myanmar, where his soldiers guarded caravans of raw opium and multiple heroin refineries. The drugs were then sent across to Thailand, where they were dispatched to global markets.

Amid the decades of civil war in the country, the Burmese Army gave protection to his drug convoys in exchange for Mr. Lo's support fighting Communist forces, according to "The Politics of Heroin" by Alfred W. McCoy. But Mr. Lo switched sides in the early 1970s, allying himself with rebels fighting for independence from Burma. Burmese forces pushed him across the border into Thailand, where he was arrested and extradited to Burma in 1973. …

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