Friday, May 18, 2012

Opium War in 1967,CIA confusion (1)

Opium War in Golden Triangle

General Ma had his chance as mediator in early 1967 when Generals Tuan and Ly began receiving disturbing information about Chan Shee-fu's activities in the Shan States. The KMT's radio network was sending back reports that the Shan warlord's brokers were buying up unprecedented quantities of opium in the northern Shan and Wa states.

In February, Chan Shee-fu (Khun Sa) had delivered a de facto declaration of war when he demanded that KMT caravans trading in the Wa States pay him the same transit tax that his caravans had to pay the KMT whenever they crossed into Thailand or Laos. When Chan Shee-fu's caravan of three hundred mules assembled in June 1967 it was carrying sixteen tons of raw opium worth $500,000 wholesale in Chiangmai.   

With his share of the profits, Chan Shee-fu could purchase at least one thousand new carbines and expand his army from two thousand to three thousand men, a force almost equal in size to the combined thirty-two hundred troops of the KMT Third and Fifth armies. If Chan Shee-fu's caravan reached Laos, the fifteen-year dominance of the KMT would be in jeopardy. 

The point was not lost on the KMT generals, and through General Ma's mediation, the two feuding generals agreed to resolve their differences and form a combined army to destroy Chan Shee-fu.   

In June the main body of Chan Shee-fu's convoy left Ving Ngun and set out on a two-hundred-mile trek toward Ban Khwan, a small Laotian lumber town on the Mekong River which Gen. Ouane Rattikone had designated the delivery point when he placed an advance order for this enormous shipment with Chan Shee-fu's broker, a Chinese merchant from Mae Sai, Thailand. 
The caravan was to deliver the opium to the general's refinery at Ban Khwan. As the heavily loaded mules plodded south through the monsoon downpours, the convoy was joined by smaller caravans from market towns like Tang Yang, so that by the time it reached Kengtung City its single-file column of five hundred men and three hundred mules stretched along the ridgelines for over a mile.  

From the moment the caravan left Ving Ngun, it was kept under surveillance by the KMT's intelligence network, and the radio receivers at Mae Salong hummed with frequent reports from the mountains overlooking the convoy's line of march. After merging their crack units into a thousand-man expeditionary corps, Generals Tuan and Ly sent their forces into the Shan States with orders to intercept the convoy and destroy it.   

Several days later the KMT expeditionary force ambushed Chan Shee-fu's main column east of Kengtung City near the Mekong River, but his rearguard counterattacked and the opium caravan escaped.  After crossing the Mekong into Laos on July 14 and 15, Chan Shee-fu's troops hiked down the old caravan trail from Muong Mounge and reached Ban Khwan two days later.  

Shortly after they arrived, the Shan troops warned the Laotian villagers that the KMT were not far behind and that there would probably be fighting. As soon as he heard this news, the principal of Ban Khwan's elementary school raced downriver to Ton Peung, where a company of Royal Laotian Army troops had its field headquarters.

The company commander radioed news of the upcoming battle to Ban Houei Sai and urged the principal to evacuate his village. During the next ten days, while Ban Khwan's twenty families moved all their worldly possessions across the Mekong into Thailand, Chan Shee-fu's troops prepared for a confrontation.  

Ban Khwan is hardly a likely battlefield: the village consists of small clearings hacked out of a dense forest, fragile stilted houses and narrow winding lanes, which were then mired in knee-deep, monsoon-season mud. A lumber mill belonging to General Ouane sat in the only large clearing in the village, and it was here that the Shans decided to make their stand. 
In many ways it was an ideal defensive position: the mill is built on a long sand embankment extending a hundred feet into the Mekong and is separated from the surrounding forest by a lumberyard, which had become a moat like sea of mud. The Shans parked their mules along the embankment, scoured the nearby towns for boats, and used cut logs lying in the lumberyard to form a great semicircular barricade in front of the mill.

The KMT expeditionary force finally reached Ban Khwan on July 26 and fought a brief skirmish with the Shans in a small hamlet just outside the village. That same day the Laotian army's provincial commander flew up from Ban Houei Sai in an air force helicopter to deliver a personal message from General Ouane: he ordered them all to get out of Laos.

The KMT scornfully demanded $250,000 to do so, and Chan Shee-fu radioed his men from Burma, ordering them to stay put. After several hundred reinforcements arrived from Mae Salong, the KMT troops attacked the Shan barricades on July 29. Since both sides were armed with an impressive array of .50 caliber machine guns, 60 mm. mortars, and 57 mm. recoilless rifles, the firefight was intense, and the noise from it could be heard for miles.
(Colonel Thet Oo's "My Opium Operations")

No comments:

Post a Comment