Thursday, July 12, 2018

Min Aung Hlaing Capturing UWSA’s Opium-King

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in 2008.
Since newly-elected so-called Democracy Government released so many imprisoned drug lords and their criminals the drug-related crimes in particular and all crimes in general are occurring all over our Burma. Even for me an experienced police officer the crimes committed recently in downtown Rangoon like the scenes straight out of action movies had shocked me to the bones.

I also read in the police reports that many crimes such as armed-robberies and murders in Mandalay City and Mogoke Town were committed by the members of heavily-armed insurgent gangs involving in drugs and now supposed to be under ceased-fire peace treaty with the State. Them reports on drug-related crimes make me to recall one particular case of notorious drug insurgent lord captured by us in the Shan State many years back.

In 2005 I was a junior police officer serving at the Kyaing-Ton (Kengteng) Town the capital city of the Triangle sub-Division of Burma well known as the Burmese part of that notorious Golden Triangle.

In my whole police career I had never been to a place with more drug-related or narco crimes than the Golden Triangle. Most of the narco-criminals there were mainly Wa or Shan or Shan-Chinese ethnic insurgents.

My boss was State’s Chief Inspector Ba Kyi and at about May or June in 2005 we had new Divisional Army Commander of our Triangle Divisional Military Command. His name was Major-General Main Aung Hlaing and yes he is now the Commander-in-Chief Senior-General of our Burma Army.

He is a strict disciplinarian and also a very hard worker and within a short time after his arrival he basically cleaned up the whole town. Road rules were strictly enforced and he even basically stopped smoking and beetle-nut chewing inside all local government offices including his Army Command Compound.

He was so tough we almost hated him for we were not allowed to smoke or chew beetle-nuts whenever we had to go into the Triangle Division Military Command. But we are also sort of agreeing with his strict rules as we Burmese are disgustingly dirtying our own environ by spitting out dirty beetle juices wherever we want.

He was also extremely tough on drug producers and drug traffickers. And completely unlike his predecessors and successors he effectively suppressed drug activities while he was there. And this was the biggest case of so many drug suppression cases he handled while he was basically the military-lord there at Kengtung.

MAH directing the plan to capture a UWSA drug lord Aik Pan (2005).
UWSA Selling Tons of Heroin to A Thai-Chinese Drug Tycoon

It was August 2005 right in the middle of unusually harsh raining season in the Triangle Region. One day Chief-Inspector Tin Maung Htay and his men from Narcotics Suppression Bureau (Central) came to Kengtung and saw our boss.

He basically told us that they have intelligence on the coming plan by UWSA (United Wa State Army – the chief narco-ethnic-insurgent army in Burma) to transport enormous quantity of Heroin from Burma to Thailand through our territory.

A Thai-Chinese tycoon was buying the heroin cheap from the Wa and UWSA units were to transport the heroin from Pangseng (UWSA HQ on China border) to Tarchileik (the Burmese border town across Maesai the Thai border town) where the Thai-Chinese tycoon would be waiting for his tons of heroin.

A source inside notoriously-corrupt Royal Thai Police’s Narcotic Bureau had given that top-secret information to our police HQ at Naypyidaw. We the local police were to relay the intelligence to local army commander as it was not just day to day drug trafficking and it would definitely involve hundreds and hundreds of UWSA armed insurgents. We did definitely need to get our army to handle the case.

Also the Narco-suppression officers had a direct order from Burma’s War Office for them to report directly to General Min Aung Hlaing the local military-divisional-commander and follow his operational plans to take down UWSA nraco-thugs. So that night we immediately went to Triangle Command and saw General Min Aung Hlaing at his house.

It was raining heavily as I drove Chief-Inspectors Tin Maung Htay and Khan Aung in our police Mazda-Jeep to see Geneal Min Aung Hlaig (MAH) at his house middle of the night. We basically woke him up and once he heard what two Chief-Inspectors were saying he asked them to repeat again and listened to them attentively.

And once he realized the gravity of massive heroin shipment by UWSA he took all of us to his vast command office nearby his house as both are in the Triangle Division Military Command’s Compound.

There, by a huge area map on the large operational table in the middle of his vast Command Office, he asked two chief-inspectors of Burma Police to explain the whole facts to him again in details. Jut by listening to him asking all sorts of penetrating questions I could figure out he knew the area extremely well even though he had arrived here just two or three months ago.

That night I started realizing that our General MAH is a strict enforcer of the laws of our land without favour or fear to friends or foes. I also had to admit that when it comes to both strategic and tactical operational plans us local police officers are nothing compare to such an experienced and battle-hardened army commander even though we do know our territory much better than him a newcomer.

UWSA's Wa-North produces the heroin and sells it to Thailand through Wa-South.
Operational Plan To Capture Aik Pan and UWSA’s Heroin

He and his dedicated and hardworking staff officers didn’t seem to sleep that night at all as next day we were called back to his office and directed with detail operational instructions for the already-planned operation to get UWSA drug traffickers.

MAH was really enthusiastic and excited about the coming operation more than we originally thought. By expertly pointing out on the large map he directed us of possible routes for pending large shipment of heroin, how our forces could get to reach those routes, where exactly to block the drug route once we find them, how to capture the drugs there, and what forces to be used if the trafficking UWSA resists.

We were even surprised by how he a new-comer to this territory knew so well of the local terrain. Only later we found out he was already at Maing-Pyin on an inspection tour of local troops there before and he had thoroughly studied the ground for future operations.

What we discovered from that operational guidance meeting with MAH was that in our Triangle Division there were two 5,000-strong UWSA brigades (called UWSA-South in South-Eastern Shan State) directly controlled from UWSA HQ in Panseng the capital city of Wa Special Autonomous Region (Called Wa-North in North-Eastern Shan State).

Aik Pan and Tar Lone were the brigade commanders of those two UWSA brigades and Aik Pan was already notorious as the king of heroin and Yaba trafficking in our infamous Golden Triangle.

By then the leadership of both UWSA brigades in our region were on their way to attend a supposedly-coordination meeting at Panseng HQ and MAH believed that on their way back to Wa-South in our Triangle Region they would bring the drugs along.

So MAH’s three stage plan was:

1) to use his overwhelming military force to stop the UWSA convoy on their way back to Tarchileik from Panseng,
2) to force them to surrender and capture their heroin and other drugs, and
3) to destroy them if they refuse to surrender and resist the army units violently. The whole operation was to be commanded directly from his underground bunker inside Triangle Command Compound in Kengteng.

Pang Sang - Mong Pian - Mong Sat Highway used by UWSA drug convoys transporting heroin.
MAH’s Drug-Suppression Operation

To begin his drug-suppression operation MAH then summoned both UWSA brigade commanders Aik Pan and Tar Lone to his Command Office in Kengteng once he knew they were on their way back from Pangseng. The Wa had to pass through Kengteng to get to Tarchileik from Pangseng.

Only Tar Lone showed up but Aik Pan was nowhere to be seen. MAH immediately concluded that Aik Pan and his select group of thirty Wa bodyguards were transporting drugs to Tarchileik.

But to avoid suspicion from the UWSA leaders our MAH did not mention anything about drugs to Tar Lone and only discussed with him on regional development, education, and law and order restoration in the meeting.

Once he knew Aik Pan was avoiding him MAH expected the worse and immediately activated his tactical plans to catch him red handed. A week before that he already had an elite Infantry Battalion ordered to prepare, secretly of course, for eventual jungle ambush. Also at least three other battalions were prepared to block all possible routes ought to be taken by UWSA convoy.

One possible route was through Mai Lar’s Wan Tar Pin Bridge and MAH sent one infantry battalion onto the bridge that night. We didn’t know that plan till the police guarding the bridge reported us of the sudden arrival of army battalion. The tactical move of a secret night march of the whole battalion through thick jungle surprised us.

A commando company was also posted at Tong Ta Bridge while a battalion was kept as a reserve for the operation. MAH also ordered his First TOC (First Tactical Operations Command of Triangle Military Division) chief Colonel Thein Oo to go and wait at Maing Hnyin Station for the operation.

Finally the Military Intelligence report came in and MAH found out that the Wa drug convoy was leaving Mong Pauk and heading towards Moe Hnyin. The route they were taking is Mong Pauk – Naung Cho – Mong Pian – Mong Sat Road and unfortunately for them Wa we were already on that road waiting for them.

That night MAH sent the State Chief Civil Engineer and the CO of army engineer battalion to Mong Pian. Their instructions were to pick a narrow spot on the road with a rocky hill on one side and a deep drop on other side, and block the road by blowing down the rock cliff.

We found out next morning that at 03:30 in that morning 913th Engineering Battalion block the road with a precise explosion of the rock cliff. We also learned that Aik Pan-led Wa drug convoy was already on their way to the road block where our police team and an army battalion were taking position and waiting.
China-backed 150,000-strong UWSA (United Wa State Army) the biggest Narco-Ethnic-insurgent army in the world.
Capture Of Drugs And The Wa Durg Lord (9 Sept 2005)

At about 15:00 in the afternoon of September-9 the Wa convoy of about ten large four-wheel-drive vehicles reached the road block. Once they saw the road block and heavily-armed Burmese troops on the roadside many armed Wa militia men got out of their cars and confronted us. Expecting the Wa wouldn’t surrender easily and they would fight back we policemen just stayed behind the troops as the dangerous standoff started developing.

The CO major of the Kengtung MAS (Military-Affairs-Security formerly known as MIS) battalion was the one dealing head on with the Wa leader Aik Pan who by then was hysterical and loudly threatening to kill himself after grabbing an AK-47 rifle from one of his men. He wouldn’t let the soldiers search his vehicles.

Finally after more than an hour of confrontational negotiations Aik Pan finally gave up, surrendered, and ordered his me to surrender too. They knew there was no way out of there alive as Burmese troops were ready to kill them all right there. They all dropped their weapons and kneeled down with hands behind heads their vehicles on that narrow road.

We then searched the vehicles thoroughly and found nearly a ton (1,000 blocks) of one-kilo heroin blocks and raw opium and more than 90 kilos of opium seeds. More than four million Thai Baht were captured from the Wa convoy too.

We brought Aik Pan and his Wa back to Kengteng and thoroughly interrogated them. Aik Pan eventually confessed that he was transporting the drugs from Pang Seng in Wa Land to Mong Yawn on the Thai border in Shan State. One Wa veteran named Han Yu Wan now living at Hong Lake border village in the Tarchileik Township was the receiver and the handover of his heroin shipment to the Thai-Chinese buyer waiting in Maesai town on Thai side.

We immediately tried to arrest Han Yu Wan but he managed to cross the border into Lao and escaped from us. Later with the cooperation with Chinese authorities we managed to capture him while he was on his way to Vietnam.

UWSA drug-lord Aik Pan was caught red-handed on the Mong Pian road by Burmese army.
General Min Aung Hlaing inspecting the arms & drugs captured from Aik Pan's UWSA drug gang.
General Min Aung Hlaing Is Strictly Anti-Drug Trafficking

The whole case from the intelligence gathering to the final arrest of UWSA drug lord and his gang was successfully and efficiently managed by the divisional CO General Min Aung Hlaing. All of us together including the military troops and all police personnel had exactly followed his directions and the result was the capture of arms, drugs, and the traffickers.

After the arrest of Aik Pan and his UWSA gang the activities of the insurgent groups trafficking drugs in our Eastern Shan State had considerably slowed down. The UWSA was the biggest and strongest drug traffickers with more men and arms than the rest of them insurgents combined. The reason for their power was their immense wealth from drug trafficking.

The Wa region has no naturally-occuring gemstones like rubies or jades and their forest have been depleted since decades ago from the deforestation due to the over-felling of timber-producing trees. Like UWSA other insurgent groups like SSA and TNLA are also deeply involving in drug trafficking.

Those narco-insurgents are the sole reason our Burma is globally-notorious as the second most opium-producing nation after Afghanistan. The arrest of Aik Pan without firing a single shot and without bloodshed by General MAH was a historical and exemplifying event to the narco-insurgents that Burmese military will never tolerate their drug trafficking activities blackening the image of our country.
What Happened To Aik Pan The UWSA Drug Lord

All the UWSA men arrested were charged and prosecuted in the civil courts and Aik Pan was sentenced to death by hanging while the rest were given lengthy prison sentences. But because of their status as members of UWSA one of armed ethnic-insurgent groups they all were pardoned later by the so-called democracy government as the persecuted political prisoners and released from jails after few short years in prison.

Aik Pan and his men then laundered their substantial drug money and went into various businesses. Aik Pan now owns Man Yadanarpon the newest domestic airline in Myanmar formerly known as Burma. That is a bad news for us and our country.

But the good news is General Min Aung Hlaing who was Aik Pan’s nemesis back then is now the famous Commander-in-Chief of Burmese military and he still is diligently watching over our nation’s security.