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Khun Sa: Drug Lord

Khun-Sa-Drug-LordKhun Sa was a Burmese drug lord who had a role in the opium and heroin trade. In addition, Khun Sa, who was born as Chang Chi-Fu, was leader of both the Shan United Army and the Mong Tai Army. As a young man, he trained during the Chinese Civil War and formed an army of his own, which consisted of a few hundred soldiers. He eventually got involved in the drug trade and was largely responsible for much of the heroin on the streets of New York from the mid 1970s all the way through the early 1990s.

Many perceived Khun Sa as one of the most ruthless drug lords during the height of his dominance. Before his rise as a drug lord, he was a fighter with the Chinese and even had weapons of mass destruction at his disposal for a brief time. In the 1960s, he worked with others in the opium trade in an area known as “the golden triangle.” This area was where most of the drug trade in Burma, Laos, and Thailand was taking place. Less than two decades later, he was heading up more than half of the triangle’s opium trade, which was also being made into heroin. While he tried hard to balance both his control of the soldiers and his drug-trading endeavors, he caught the attention of New York drug enforcement agencies.

The U.S. government put a $2 million bond on Khun Sa’s head, but he did not see his dealing in the drug trade as a bad thing. In fact, he argued that his business was helping those in Burma to feed their families. He claimed he was helping to fight the oppression of the Shan people, but the drug issue in America had become so bad that he was one of the most wanted men of his time. But instead of being indicted and arrested on drug charges, he chose to surrender and agree to a peace deal in 1996 in the capital of Burma, and he then went deep into hiding. This left the United States with few options, and he was never officially detained. In fact, Khun Sa remained in hiding until his death in 2007.

Kuhn Sa will always be remembered as one of the most ruthless drug lords of all time. Upon his death, rumors swirled about whether or not he died in absolute poverty and isolation or surrounded by opulence and riches. Because he went so deep into hiding, much about his later years is unknown. He had at least eight children, five sons and three daughters, but some claim he had as many as 30 offspring. The modern-day opium trade originating from the “golden triangle” has been reduced from a staggering 75% to approximately 5% today. No one can be certain if Kuhn Sa’s death is related to this statistic, but many feel that his role as a leader in the drug trade was essential in keeping that number so high for so long.

  • Khun Sa Obituary: This article discusses the life of infamous drug lord Khun Sa.
  • Master of the Heroin Trade: A biography about Khun Sa’s life as a drug trader is given here.
  • The Opium Kings: An interview about the heroin trade in Burma gives insight into the life of Khun Sa and other drug traders.
  • Khun Sa, Golden Triangle Drug King, Dies at 73: This article details the life of Khun Sa, king of the golden triangle.
  • For a Heroin King in the Golden Triangle, Death and Taxes Rule: This page explores Khun Sa’s life before he was officially sought by the United States.
  • Death of a Drug Lord: An article in the Asia Times explores the life and death of Khun Sa.
  • Wanted: The U.S. State Department has an archive of the information posted about Khun Sa by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
  • Khun Sa Daughter Reclaims Property: A story discusses Khun Sa’s daughter reclaiming some of his property after his death.
  • Khun Sa Surrenders: A news brief discusses Khun Sa’s supposed surrender in 1996.
  • Back in Business: Read this article from 1993 to learn more about how Khun Sa was relentless in doing business in the opium trade, just years before his surrender.
  • Tycoon Plans Khun Sa Museum: A Chinese tycoon decided to build a museum dedicated to the life of Khun Sa; read more about his endeavor here.
  • Kingpin Khun Sa Dies in Rangoon: Read here to discover more about Khun Sa, his life, and his influence in drug trafficking.
  • Heroin’s Hidden Deals: This page discusses the influence, deals, and corruption that occur in heroin dealing.
  • Khun Sa Overview: Read a brief introduction to who Khun Sa was and his role as a drug trafficker.
  • The Shan United Army: Learn more about the Shan Army and Khun Sa’s role.