DEEP SUMMARY - Narcotopia - Patrick Winn



Here is a summary of the key points:

  • This book details the history and culture of narcotics trafficking in Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle region, centered around the ethnic Wa people and their de facto autonomous state called Wa State in northeastern Burma.

  • Wa State is ruled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and functions like an independent nation, though it does not seek formal separation from Burma. The UWSA is heavily involved in drug production and trafficking.

  • Other groups that feature prominently include Shanland, a short-lived rogue poppy state led by notorious trafficker Khun Sa in the 1970s-80s; and the Exiles cartel, a CIA-protected opium smuggling network.

  • The book examines the involvement of various governments like the US, Burma, China and Thailand in the drug trade through agencies like the DEA and CIA, who sometimes partnered with traffickers for political ends.

  • It draws on sources like DEA/CIA documents, police records, oral histories from traffickers and local customs to present a multifaceted account beyond just the law enforcement perspective. Names are disguised to protect identities.

    Here is a summary:

  • Wa): Born in 1944 on the China-Burma border. Raised in an American Baptist missionary sect. Was an anticommunist warlord in his youth. Later became a top leader of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and was also a DEA asset (confidential informant).

  • Jacob (Wa): Saw Lu’s pious son-in-law, married to his daughter Grace. Born in the late 1970s.

  • Lai (Wa): Born circa 1940 in the Wa highlands. Full name is Zhao Nyi Lai. Was a Maoist guerrilla in his youth but later rejected the ideology in favor of Wa nationalism. A founding father of Wa State.

  • Bao (Wa): Wa State’s current leader. Born in 1949 in Wa highlands. Full name is Bao Youxiang. Former communist guerrilla commander who became a Wa ethnonationalist.

  • Wei Xuegang (Wa-Chinese): Considered the most successful drug lord of the 21st century so far. Born mid-1940s in the Wa peaks. Former protégé of Khun Sa. Has been the UWSA's finance czar since 1989.

  • Khun Sa (Shan-Chinese): Considered the most powerful Asian drug lord of the late 20th century. Born in 1934 in Burma’s Shan foothills. Original name is Zhang Qifu. Founder of Shanland and a former mentor to Wei Xuegang.

  • Other figures mentioned include Chinese, American, and Burmese military/intelligence officers with connections to the region.

The summary then introduces the concept of "Superstar", a top UWSA leader who was also a high-level DEA informant (confidential informant). More details about Superstar are revealed in subsequent sections.

Here is a summary:

  • The author is seeking permission to enter Wa territory and interview UWSA leaders. He has made many requests over the years but usually gets ignored or brief rejections.

  • This time, after sending his passport scans, he receives a vague invitation to meet at the UWSA's embassy in Lashio, Burma.

  • In Lashio, a local interpreter named Jacob picks him up at the airport. Jacob works various jobs and knows the local Wa community well.

  • They drive past the large Northeast Command military base, which often deploys attacks against indigenous groups. Jacob says the airport was recently closed after guerrillas attacked the base.

  • Jacob is working to finalize a meeting for the author at the UWSA embassy compound in Lashio. The author hopes this can help him gain permission to enter Wa territory for interviews.

    Based on the passage, Jacob is a Wa Christian man from a Wa village in Burma who works as a translator. Some key details:

  • Jacob lives in a Wa village in Lashio, Burma near the China border. The village was established after Wa people fled violence in their old village.

  • Jacob used to work as an education officer for the United Wa State Army (UWSA), teaching young soldiers. He expresses some criticism of corruption within the UWSA leadership now.

  • Jacob takes the narrator Patrick on a tour of the Wa village, showing the Baptist church. Jacob and his family are Christian, which is unusual for Wa people.

  • Jacob invites Patrick to dinner at his home. Over dinner, he shares more about his experience with the UWSA and criticisms of some corrupt leadership only interested in money deals.

  • Jacob appears knowledgeable about UWSA Chairman Bao Youxiang and financial head Wei Xuegang, but is hesitant when Patrick asks about getting an interview with Bao.

So in summary, Jacob is a Wa Christian man from a Wa village in Burma who used to work for the UWSA and now works as a translator, giving insights into Wa and UWSA issues.

Here is a summary of the key details:

  • Saw Lu, a civilized Wa man educated by missionaries, is sent by the Burmese military regime to infiltrate and assimilate among the headhunting Wa tribes.

  • His goal is to unite the Wa tribes against the threat of Chinese communism, while also civilizing and converting them over time.

  • He brings his young wife Mary into the dangerous territory of the headhunting village of Pang Wai.

  • Pang Wai is a large, fortified village surrounded by traps and skulls as warnings. Saw Lu and Mary navigate the trenches to enter.

  • Once inside, they are met by the residents of Pang Wai - nude tribespeople coated in dust, confused by Saw Lu's appearance as a civilized Wa man dressed as a lowlander.

  • Saw Lu speaks to the villagers in Wa language, seeking permission for him and his wife to live among the headhunting tribe. The villagers are uncertain who has authority to grant such permission.

So in summary, it sets up Saw Lu's mission to infiltrate and influence the headhunting Wa tribes on behalf of the Burmese government, while also pursuing his personal goals of civilizing and converting his people, as he brings his wife into the foreboding village of Pang Wai.

Here is a summary:

The passage describes the Wa people and Saw Lu's upbringing among them. It provides contextual background:

  • The Wa had no centralized leadership and were fiercely independent, confounding British colonizers' attempts to subjugate them in the late 1800s.

  • Saw Lu was born in 1944 to a sect of Wa Christians converted by American Baptist missionary William Marcus Young in the early 1900s. This sect rejected headhunting and other traditional Wa practices.

  • Saw Lu and his wife Mary arrive in the Wa fortress town of Pang Wai in the mid-1960s hoping to establish a school. They observe traditional Wa rituals like headhunting, buffalo fights, and celebrations that involve drinking and dancing.

  • The elders boast of past acts of violence like decapitating running men. Saw Lu is disgusted by these practices and believes the Wa people must be civilized, though he acknowledges he is Wa himself and was civilized by Americans.

  • The passage establishes Saw Lu's background among the converted Christian Wa sect and sets up his experience encountering traditional Wa culture and practices in Pang Wai, which he finds barbaric.

    Here is a summary:

Rio, a Wa tribesman, implored William Marcus Young to move his family east from the British Empire to a remote village called Banna near the border with China. Rio's people, an offshoot of the feared Wa tribe, had given up headhunting and asked Young to come teach them Christianity. Young established a missionary commune with his followers, the Wa and Lahu tribespeople, numbering in the hundreds. He imposed strict rules banning substances and requiring literacy.

Young longed to convert the headhunting Wa in the mountains but this was too dangerous. In 1931, several of Young's Wa converts were killed on an evangelical mission. Young died in the 1930s, and his son Vincent took over running the mission. Saw Lu was born in 1944 as part of this community.

In 1949, when Saw Lu was 5 years old, the Chinese Communist Party gained control of China in a civil war. Mao ordered the subjugation of the Wa people on the Chinese side of the border. Saw Lu's missionary group fled the advancing communist soldiers, fearing their compound would be destroyed and they would be forced into labor camps. They joined a procession of Wa Baptists walking to safety in Burma. Mao's campaign against the Wa in China lasted over 10 brutal years, colonizing the half of the Wa population on that side of the border through violence and forced settlement.

Here is a summary:

  • Saw Lu was a young Wa man who grew up as a refugee in Burma after fleeing Communist China. He was well-educated and married to a Lahu woman named Mary.

  • In 1966, Burmese military intelligence recruited Saw Lu for a dangerous mission. They wanted him to infiltrate the Wa fortress town of Pang Wai under the guise of opening a school. His real goal was to gather intelligence on the Wa and organize them to resist potential invasion by Chinese Communist forces.

  • Saw Lu and Mary established a school in Pang Wai using bamboo and thatched grass. However, teaching the Wa children was challenging as they were not used to formal education and often disrupted lessons.

  • Saw Lu realized there was a vast cultural gap between himself and the Wa, despite being ethnically Wa. He was much more exposed to modern technologies and cities from living in Burma.

  • In the spring of 1967, about 3 months into his mission, Saw Lu was still struggling to control and teach his students. He was learning about Wa customs but also that they only respected raw strength, and he had little authority as an outsider.

    Here is a summary:

  • Saw Lu, a Burmese schoolteacher, was attempting to teach the local Wa tribespeople in the isolated village of Pang Wai. However, his lessons were having little success as the tribespeople's lives revolved around farming opium.

  • The Wa cultivated and harvested opium twice a year, which they traded to Chinese merchant caravans in exchange for goods like salt, rice and firearms. The caravans supplied the most powerful warlord clans in the region.

  • Saw Lu became interested in these warlord clans after hearing stories about them. He hoped to gain their support in case of an invasion by China. Over several months, he worked to learn more about the warlords and their private militias.

  • Saw Lu also investigated an old tribal story about airplanes dropping mysterious crates of weapons in the forest long ago. By interviewing elders and having students help search, he located several buried crates containing around 100 firearms, including submachine guns and rifles. He stored the weapons at his school, believing they may have a strategic purpose.

    Here is a summary:

After fleeing communist China, some refugees formed an armed group in Burma supported by the CIA with weapons and supplies, hoping to retake China. However, their attacks failed. Rather than give up, the CIA continued supporting them, unintentionally enabling them to transform into a drug trafficking syndicate.

Using CIA weapons and planes, they came to control most of Burma's opium production by strong-arming local tribes into poppy farming. They became a powerful drug cartel beyond the control of Burma's military government. They traded firearms for opium from the feared Wa tribes, creating powerful warlords who were key opium suppliers.

The CIA operation that began with patriotic intentions spiraled into fueling the rise of an armed drug trafficking group. The refugees turned to the lucrative opium trade after their goal of retaking China proved unrealistic, but the CIA supported their transition and indirectly facilitated drug trafficking for over a decade through this alliance gone wrong.

Here is a summary:

  • By the mid-1960s, the Exiles had built vast opium trade routes through Burma's remote mountainous regions, collecting opium from the Wa warlords and trafficking it south to their headquarters near the Thai border.

  • Their operation had grown into Asia's largest opium syndicate, with over 3,000 armed men. Though profitable, much of the profits went to sustaining their personnel and families.

  • The CIA increasingly saw the Exiles as useful allies against the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. It encouraged Thailand to allow the Exiles to operate unchecked along the mountainous Thai-Burma border.

  • The Exiles focused on producing high-value heroin from the opium. With CIA and Thai government support, including using corrupt Thai police, they established efficient supply lines to deliver heroin to urban markets in Bangkok.

  • A key market was US soldiers in Vietnam, many of whom used heroin to cope with the trauma of war. CIA observed but did nothing to stop the influx of drug money or US troop addictions.

  • The CIA justified this by viewing the Exiles as useful for gathering intelligence on nearby China and monitoring for communist activity in the Golden Triangle region.

    Here is a summary:

  • The Exiles (CIA-backed Chinese Nationalist smugglers operating in the Golden Triangle region) would help the CIA collect intelligence along the Burma-China border through any means necessary. This included enlisting the local Wa warlords to conduct CIA operations.

  • The Exiles set up a network of over a dozen radio outposts along the border, staffed by Exile soldiers trained in communications. Caravans carrying opium were equipped with radios to report anything suspicious. This allowed real-time intelligence sharing between the Exiles and CIA.

  • The CIA wanted the Exiles to extend this surveillance network deeper into Wa territory right on the Chinese border. The Wa warlords accepted this, allowing the Exiles to set up a permanent listening post to monitor Chinese communications. One Wa warlord even offered to send headhunter teams into China to kill communists and steal documents.

  • This established a system of narco-espionage between the CIA, Exiles, and Wa warlords. All were united in wanting to prevent Chinese communist expansion into the Wa regions, but each had their own motivations - the CIA to stop communism globally, the Exiles to maintain their drug trade primacy, and the warlords to retain control over their territories.

    Here is a summary:

  • Saw Lu is establishing a militia in Pang Wai and wants to recruit more villagers and end headhunting practices. He gives fiery speeches but also has his lieutenant Rang force villagers to pay an "opium tax" to fund weapons purchases.

  • Burma's military government is encouraging Saw Lu's efforts and gives him an official title as commander of a "self-defense force," essentially sanctioning his militia. This allows it to co-opt more villages and traffic opium more openly.

  • Saw Lu's goal is to meet with the major Wa warlords operating along the Chinese border and get them to also join the self-defense force program. This would strengthen Burma's control over the area.

  • The main warlords are Shah, known as the most ferocious, his brother Tang the prolific headhunter, Mahasang the Prince who leads from his wealthy "Silver Fortress," and the mystical Master of Creation who some see as a god.

  • Saw Lu sends invitations to meet at a deserted Burmese army post. Master of Creation refuses but Shah agrees. Saw Lu positions 200 loaned Burmese soldiers nearby as a show of strength for the meeting with Shah.

    Here is a summary:

  • Shah is a freelance commando hired by the CIA and Taiwanese spies to infiltrate China and conduct sabotage missions against communists. He works with the CIA-backed Taiwanese intelligence network operating in the Wa regions.

  • Saw Lu is seeking to unite the various Wa warlords under an alliance and convince them to nominally align with Burma for protection against China.

  • Saw Lu meets with Shah, who recounts dangerous sabotage missions he conducted against China. Shah agrees to Saw Lu's proposal to establish a self-defense militia that aligns with Burma.

  • Saw Lu then meets with Prince Mahasang, another powerful warlord. Mahasang also works with the CIA and has a radio intercept station on his lands. He reluctantly agrees to Saw Lu's plan after pressure.

  • The only remaining holdout is Master of Creation. Saw Lu's uncle is taken hostage but ends up marrying Master of Creation's sister. Master of Creation agrees to meet with Saw Lu after forcibly making the uncle part of his family.

    Here is a summary:

  • Saw Lu successfully forms a "League of Wa Warlords" alliance between himself and other Wa militia commanders in the highlands. This is aided by existing connections to exiles/CIA and opposition to communism.

  • The League establishes some governance over the territory and bans practices like headhunting. Saw Lu spreads Christianity.

  • However, a communist insurgency emerges led by a Wa commander named "Long Legs" who is loyal to the Communist Party of Burma. Saw Lu identifies Long Legs as Lai, someone he knew previously.

  • Fighting breaks out between Saw Lu's forces and the communist Wa rebels. Saw Lu kills for the first time. The insurgency threatens the unity Saw Lu had brought. The summary then transitions to discussing the historical practice of slavery among the Wa people.

    Here is a summary:

  • Opium became a form of currency and means of exchange among the Wa people in the borderlands between China and Burma. It led to social stratification, with some families growing rich off opium farming while others fell into debt and poverty.

  • Lai was born in 1940 into a poor family often struggling with hunger and debt. One day, their primary lender came and took Lai and his brother in repayment of debts, enslaving them on his opium plantation. They endured years of harsh labor and abuse.

  • In the late 1940s, Lai's father rescued the boys and took them to live with a distant family on the Chinese side of the border, where conditions were better. However, China's colonization drove by Mao in the 1950s disrupted this stability.

  • Lai accepted communist rule, seeing it as bringing equality and development. He received an education under the new system. However, he also spied for China against groups in the Wa highlands of Burma that opposed communism.

  • Lai's spying turned to banditry as he stole livestock to survive with no other means of support. He periodically worked for the growing militia of Saw Lu but continued to observe the corruption that systems of power and wealth bred.

  • In 1968, after stealing cows, Rang of Saw Lu's militia mocked and stole from Lai without payment, spurring Lai's growing resentment of the social hierarchy and abuse of the poor.

    Here is a summary:

  • Lai, a former slave, has formed his own communist guerrilla militia in Burma's Wa lands, backed by China. He wants to extend Maoist control and overthrow the opium warlords who rule the area.

  • Lai recruits followers by promising equity and opposing the oppressive warlords. He sees uniting the Wa people under communism as the path to liberating them from their current rulers.

  • China's ultimate goal is for the Communist Party of Burma, a puppet group comprised of ethnic Burmese, to take over the entire country with Maoist ideology. The Wa fighters like Lai are meant to do the fighting but not govern.

  • Lai and other Wa commander cells receive weapons from China to launch an uprising against the League of Warlords that rules the Wa peaks. Saw Lu is one of the main targets as Lai's former slavemaster.

  • The League is outmatched by the larger, better equipped communist forces. After years of battle, the League loses control of the highlands in the early 1970s as its leaders are defeated or flee.

  • In 1971, Saw Lu makes a last stand against Lai's forces on a defensible mountain summit but is eventually forced to retreat to escape with the remaining fighters. While Lai aims to bring Maoist rule, the future governance of the Wa lands remains uncertain.

    Here is a summary:

  • Saw Lu has finished recounting his life story to the narrator. He led his people West after communist forces took over the Wa region, establishing a new settlement near Lashio.

  • The narrator now wants to meet with leaders of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) that currently governs the Wa state, to learn about governing a region known for drug trafficking.

  • Jacob arranges a meeting with the UWSA's envoy in Lashio. Jacob warns the narrator not to mention knowing Saw Lu due to politics, and never to bring up Wei Xuegang, the notorious narcotics kingpin.

  • At the meeting, the envoy insists the UWSA has reformed from drug production and enforces antinarcotics laws. He provides examples to convince the narrator.

  • The narrator requests an interview with Chairman Bao, the top UWSA leader, but the envoy says this requires a formal request. He instructs the narrator to submit it and wait one month for a response. The meeting then concludes with an exchange of gifts.

    Here is a summary:

  • Patrick and Jacob visit a Wa village in territory under the United Wa State Army's (UWSA) control near the Burmese-Chinese border. They shoot air rifles with villagers and chat with elders.

  • One elder recalls the days of headhunting between clans, and praises Saw Lu for ending the practice and fighting for Wa rights. They leave as it gets dark.

  • Driving back, Patrick asks Jacob about Wei Xuegang, the powerful drug lord who helped found the UWSA but is now seen as corrupt. Jacob is uncomfortable discussing him, implying Wei caused problems for his family.

  • They arrive at Saw Lu's house. Saw Lu's wife Mary serves them cookies as Saw Lu prepares to tell Patrick more about the founding of the UWSA in the late 1980s, after he led Wa refugees from communist-ruled areas down to Lashio in the 1970s. Saw Lu wanted to acclimate the Wa to city life to ensure their survival under Burmese military rule.

    Here is a summary:

  • Saw Lu was an ethnic Wa leader who the Burmese military deemed loyal for rallying his tribe to fight Maoist invaders. They gave him a job as a civilian intelligence officer to liaise with minority communities and monitor their activities.

  • Though this surveillance made him uncomfortable, he did it to ensure the Burmese military left his Wa people alone in Lashio. He continued this work into the 1980s.

  • In 1989, a group of Wa revolutionaries in Panghsang overthrew their communist overlords and reclaimed their land. They summoned Saw Lu due to his reputation as a leader. He joined them in laying the foundations of the first Wa nation.

  • Saw Lu began telling this story as a founding myth of the Wa nation, scrubbed of problematic details. The interviewer interrupted to ask Saw Lu about Wei Xuegang, the notorious narcotics trafficker behind Wa State. Saw Lu became nervous and refused to discuss Wei, ending the interview abruptly.

  • Wei Xuegang rose to become the biggest Golden Triangle drug trafficker by exploiting clashes between the CIA and DEA, whose differing agendas caused chaos that Wei was able to take advantage of for his own gains over decades of work. Saw Lu and Wei would later clash in their efforts to shape the new Wa State.

    Here is a summary:

  • Wei grew up in a remote Wa village along the Chinese border in Burma. His father was Chinese so he was able to speak Chinese.

  • As a teenager in the 1960s, Wei worked at a CIA-linked radio listening post, monitoring Chinese communications. He gained skills in codes and communications.

  • Wei met Zhang Qifu, an ambitious warlord about 10 years older who was building up an opium trafficking operation. Zhang took Wei under his wing and mentored him.

  • Wei proved himself as a financial manager for Zhang's militia, growing the operation. He found purpose and value in his intellectual skills.

  • Zhang was independent and arrogant, breaking ties with other groups like the Exiles who tried to control him. However, he still had to pay "taxes" to the Exiles who controlled the Thai-Burma border.

  • Zhang took Wei to meet the powerful Exiles leader General Lee Wen-huan. Zhang transformed into a submissive role in front of Lee, showing his continued deference despite also challenging Lee's authority at times.

    Here is a summary:

Wei wants to improve his skills in intelligence and dispatch. He is given the opportunity to shadow the radio dispatchers at the Exiles' main base for a week. This allows Wei to learn their communication protocols and gain insight into the cartel's operations.

However, Zhang has no intention of remaining loyal to the Exiles. After Wei returns, Zhang reveals he plans to betray the Exiles by smuggling a huge load of opium out of Burma without paying them a cut. Zhang believes this will make him powerful enough to rival the Exiles.

Unfortunately, the plan fails disastrously. The opium shipment is attacked by Exiles and then bombed by the Lao military, who steal the drugs. This ruins Zhang's reputation and forces him to go into hiding. He is eventually imprisoned by the Burmese government.

With Zhang in jail, his organization falls apart. But the experience gives Zhang time to restrategize. Meanwhile, greater changes are happening in the Golden Triangle as the U.S. launches its War on Drugs, unknowingly interfering in complex dynamics between traffickers, militias, and intelligence agencies.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • US customs agent Jake Levine goes undercover in Thailand to infiltrate an ethnic Chinese drug trafficking ring run by Liang and Geh.

  • Levine gains their trust by posing as an Italian mafia member who can help smuggle their heroin into the US. They take him out partying and offer to introduce him to their top supplier called "The Factory".

  • The CIA contacts Levine and orders him to end the operation in Bangkok, not go to The Factory. When he refuses, they cite his military background and threaten his career. Reluctantly, Levine accepts and busts Liang and Geh.

  • This highlights tensions between the CIA, who were complicit in the drug trade, and the DEA/Justice Department who wanted to crack down.

  • In 1972, 26 tons of the Exiles' opium is burned in Thailand as part of a deal for them to quit trafficking, but they ignore it. The CIA also does not enforce the deal.

  • The DEA is established in 1973 but must avoid prosecuting CIA-connected traffickers, highlighting the conflict between the agencies over the drug war.

  • The Exiles are weakened by the drug war but must keep up appearances of reformation to avoid DEA scrutiny, leaving an opening for their rivals Zhang and Wei to challenge their turf.

    Here is a summary:

  • Khun Sa, formerly known as Zhang Qifu, had a transformation in prison where he started focusing on elevating the Shan people and creating an independent Shan nation.

  • In 1976, with Wei at his side, Khun Sa chose a valley called Broken Rock on the Thai-Burma border as the site for this new Shan nation, which he called Shanland. He rapidly gathered thousands of Shan fighters to support his cause.

  • Khun Sa and Wei drove out the Exiles group that previously controlled the area. Khun Sa established Shanland as a micronation with all the trappings of a modern state. He appointed Wei as the nation's treasurer.

  • Under Wei's leadership, Shanland quickly overtook the Exiles to become the dominant player in the regional opium trade just one year later. However, Wei never took credit, letting people believe Khun Sa was solely responsible for Shanland's prosperity.

  • Wei and his brothers expanded their heroin distribution beyond Asia to the US using container ships and cargo planes. Their heroin was branded with a logo stamp for quality assurance as it moved down the supply chain.

  • The DEA expanded globally in its vow to wage "all-out global war on drugs", including opening offices in Thailand near Khun Sa and Wei's operations in Shanland and Chiang Mai. However, they faced challenges cooperating with the CIA, which protected some traffickers.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Saladino worked as a DEA agent in Thailand in the 1970s-80s, trying to curb the drug trafficking of Khun Sa, a major drug lord. However, the DEA had limited power and autonomy in Thailand.

  • Khun Sa had built a lucrative drug empire in Shan State and bribed high-level Thai officials to protect himself from arrest. The CIA also avoided helping the DEA too much due to turf battles.

  • Saladino saw video footage of Khun Sa living comfortably as the head of state in Shanland, holding lavish parties. His right-hand man Wei also held a high position, despite being disliked by others.

  • When DEA agent Mike Powers aggressively pursued police corruption links to drug traffickers in Thailand, it threatened Khun Sa's operations. In 1980, Powers' wife and daughter were kidnapped in Chiang Mai. The kidnapper was killed during a police shootout, leaving suspicion on Khun Sa ordering the hit.

  • After the kidnapping, most DEA agents departed Thailand for safety reasons, leaving Saladino in charge. The incident almost caused marital issues for Saladino and his wife. However, he felt he had to stay to maintain a DEA presence.

    Here is a summary:

Khun Sa, the head of Shanland, grew paranoid as pressure from the DEA increased. His advisers turned him against Wei Xuegang, Khun Sa's treasurer, by falsely accusing Wei of embezzlement. Khun Sa had Wei imprisoned in an underground pit instead of allowing him to defend himself. Wei remained trapped in the dark hole for days as conditions deteriorated. However, some of Wei's men were able to bribe guards and free him before the Thai military raided Shanland. The DEA-backed raid destroyed much of Shanland but failed to capture Khun Sa, who had already fled to a backup location in Burma. Wei also escaped and went into hiding in Taiwan, but he continued to be drawn back to the Golden Triangle region.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Shah led a group of former headhunters and fighters loyal to Saw Lu, a leader in the League of Warlords in northern Burma. When the League disintegrated in the 1970s, Shah's group operated as a militia-for-hire and smuggled opium in the dangerous Golden Triangle region.

  • In 1984, Wei Xuegang, a half-Chinese businessman, approaches Shah looking for work. He proposes helping the Wa National Army, Shah's group, upgrade their drug trafficking operations by connecting them to exporters in Thailand.

  • Wei overhauls the gang's operations, setting up drug labs staffed by ethnic Chinese chemists. Under his leadership, they become a proper trafficking syndicate supplying markets in Hong Kong and the US.

  • Meanwhile, Khun Sa is working to monopolize the border drug trade and pushes the Exiles, led by General Lee, out of their territories. Lee refuses Khun Sa's offer to buy out the Exiles. In retaliation, Khun Sa bombs Lee's estate, though no one is killed.

  • With the Exiles weakening, the CIA sees an opportunity to use the Wa National Army to counter Khun Sa's expansion. Their plan is to secretly support and strengthen the Wa group to take on Khun Sa's forces.

    Here is a summary:

  • Thai military intelligence worked closely with the CIA to train and equip the Wa National Army to wage a guerrilla campaign against Khun Sa's drug empire in Burma. The goal was to weaken Khun Sa on behalf of the US and Thailand.

  • The Wa fighters were initially poorly armed but received M16 rifles, ammunition, and other support from Thailand's army stockpiles, which were supplied by the US. Thai officers also aided in planning Wa operations.

  • The Wa alliance with General Lee's Exiles was too small, around 1,000 fighters total, to mount major battles against Khun Sa's much larger army. Their operations had little impact and mostly involved minor skirmishes on the Burmese side of the border.

  • A key beneficiary was Wei, who avoided fighting but expanded his heroin trafficking network under the protection of the arrangement. He obtained a fake Thai passport and identity.

  • Eventually the usefulness of supporting the Wa Army faded for Thai and US intelligence as it devolved back into just a drug gang. Wei then became vulnerable to law enforcement like the DEA.

  • Wei was arrested in 1988 by Thai police and DEA after a heroin shipment of 680kg bound for Hong Kong was intercepted. He was set to be extradited to the US but tried to bribe guards in the Chiang Mai prison while awaiting proceedings.

    Here is a summary:

  • The setting is a Wa National Army camp in northern Burma in early 1989, shortly before an indigenous Wa revolt overthrew the local communist party that had long subjugated them.

  • Wei Xuegang, a drug trafficker, had fled to the camp after being released from prison in Bangkok on bribery charges. His organization's territory and resources were limited and under threat.

  • Commander Zhao Nyi Lai, a high-ranking Wa member of the communist party, had grown disillusioned with the party over decades. He began privately advocating for Wa ethnic pride and self-reliance rather than communist ideology.

  • Lai and his friend Bao Youxiang, another commander, derided the ethnically Burmese politburo leaders. Lai would give rousing pro-Wa speeches to villagers, fueling growing anti-communist sentiment.

  • One day in April 1989, the radio in the Wa camp reported that an indigenous Wa revolt had overthrown the local communist party, two hundred miles north. This was a major development that opened up new opportunities for Wei and lifted the spirits of the Wa National Army men.

    Here is a summary:

  • Bao Ta Lai was a legendary Wa warrior who led rebel attacks against the Communist Party of Burma in the late 1960s and 1970s. He rose to become a chief commander.

  • By the 1980s, China under Deng Xiaoping was reducing support for communist groups in Burma. This caused economic hardship in the Communist Party of Burma's enclave.

  • In 1989, commanders Bao and Lai led a rebellion against the Communist Party of Burma's politburo. On a Buddhist holiday, they assembled hundreds of mutineers and overthrew the politburo without bloodshed.

  • The rebellion established the first independent Wa state. Lai wanted peace with neighbors but also demanded dignity and would defend Wa independence. China welcomed relations with the new Wa state.

  • Burmese generals also met with Lai, hoping to control the Wa state. But Lai insisted on autonomy within Burma and keeping their standing army. Burma accepted this to avoid war with the Wa.

  • Lai also ensured the Wa could continue opium production to support themselves economically, and Burma agreed not to interfere as long as the Wa did not declare full independence. This established the foundations for the new Wa state.

    Here is a summary:

  • When the Wa State seceded from the Burmese government, they were left in extreme poverty with little resources. Their leader Lai knew they needed an economic strategy but lacked business experience.

  • Opium production was essentially their only viable option given their isolation and unsuitable land for most crops. Lai reluctantly agreed to center their economy on the opium trade.

  • A businessman named Wei Xuegang approached Lai offering to be the financial chief. Wei had experience building a narcotics operation for a militia leader in the 1970s. He convinced Lai he could transform the Wa State into a major drug trafficking organization.

  • Wei proposed establishing a special economic zone on a plot of land he controlled on the Thai border, which would give them direct access to heroin markets in Thailand. Lai agreed and put Wei in charge of developing this area, now called Wa Southern Command.

  • Under Wei's leadership, the region quickly became a major producer and exporter of heroin. By 1990, the Wa State had become one of the world's largest heroin trafficking organizations, alongside their rival Khun Sa's group. This transformed the global heroin trade and flooding of the drug into markets like the US.

  • So in summary, extreme poverty and lack of alternatives drove the Wa State to center their economy on the opium trade. The involvement of the experienced trafficker Wei then enabled them to rapidly build a massively successful international narcotics operation.

    Here is a summary:

  • Lai is seeking advice on how to deal with the threat posed by America's drug war to Wa State, which relies on heroin production for its economy.

  • Lai's only person who could help him understand the American perspective is his former enemy Saw Lu. However, they have a history of trying to kill each other.

  • Lai reaches out to Saw Lu and they meet in Lashio. Despite their past conflict, they find common ground and Saw Lu agrees to advise Lai unofficially.

  • Saw Lu warns Lai that continuing to rely on heroin production through Wei Xuegang will draw the wrath of the powerful US and prevent other countries from assisting Wa State's development.

  • Saw Lu proposes that he establish contact with the DEA to propose Wa State stops heroin in exchange for US aid and forgiveness. Lai agrees but warns Saw Lu to be secretive about it given the risk.

  • The plan may come to nothing but could allow Wa State to prosper without opium if successful, by taking profits and influence away from Wei. However, Wei would lose everything if the plan succeeded.

    Here is a summary:

  • An industrial rubber trashcan lined with uncooked rice was in the church, which the staff used as a tradition where they would throw handfuls of rice in as part of their pay.

  • Patrick, a journalist, plays guitar in the church band and prays with them after their practice. He is invited to dinner at the house of Jacob, a music teacher, where he meets Saw Lu, a former warlord and DEA informant.

  • At dinner, Saw Lu asks Patrick for help reconnecting with the DEA, saying he has medical bills. Patrick agrees to help although he is skeptical. Through research, he finds the names of Bruce Paul Stubbs and Angelo Saladino, former DEA agents who worked with Saw Lu.

  • Patrick contacts Angelo Saladino, now retired. Saladino recalls Saw Lu, nicknamed "Superstar", as an extremely valuable DEA informant in Burma in the 1990s. However, the DEA failed to protect Saw Lu after their relationship was exposed, and he was brutally tortured as a result.

    Here is a summary:

  • In 1988, the Burmese military violently cracked down on pro-democracy protests, killing many students in front of the US embassy. This turned Burma into a target for harsh criticism and isolation by the US.

  • Angelo Saladino was sent by the DEA to Burma as the sole agent there, but faced many obstacles from the ambassador due to the poor US-Burma relations.

  • Saladino worked closely with DEA intelligence analyst Bian, who helped gather intelligence. Their only other helper was a Burmese fixer named John.

  • They were contacted by a potential confidential informant named Saw Lu, who went by the code name "Superstar." He had secretly built up an intelligence network of over 100 informants in the Shan hills drug region.

  • Superstar was risky to meet with as he had to keep his contacts with the DEA secret from the Burmese military he worked for. They set up elaborate secure meetings at safehouses to minimize risks.

  • Superstar provided highly useful detailed intelligence on the drug trade through written reports. He became an invaluable source of real-time information for the DEA.

    Here is a summary:

  • The DEA agents Saladino and Bian were meeting regularly with their confidential informant called "Superstar" or Saw Lu, who was providing extremely detailed intelligence reports on the drug operations of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), one of the largest drug trafficking groups in Burma.

  • Saw Lu was actually an advisor to the UWSA leader and was providing these reports with the leader's approval. Saw Lu insisted the UWSA just wanted to develop their impoverished region and ultimately go clean from the drug trade.

  • In exchange for the intelligence, Saladino paid Saw Lu around $1000 per report and had him sign receipts, though Saw Lu took steps to obscure his identity on the receipts like writing his name in different scripts.

  • The intelligence Saw Lu provided gave the DEA more accurate estimates of drug production in Burma compared to the CIA, who relied more on satellite imagery, to the annoyance of the CIA.

  • Meanwhile, the military junta in Burma, led by Secretary One, reached out to the DEA to cultivate cooperation against the drug trade in hopes of improving Burma's international image and reducing pressure from the US.

  • This led to a public burning of a large heroin seizure with Secretary One handing the torch to Saladino, publicly acknowledging the DEA's presence in Burma despite objections from the State Department.

    Here is a summary:

The passage discusses obstacles to Saw Lu's dream of getting US humanitarian assistance (literacy programs, medicine) in exchange for eliminating opium production in Wa State.

The major hurdles would be getting approval from Burma's authoritarian junta, the US State Department (opposed to assisting the junta), and possibly the CIA. Within the DEA, Saladino's initial boss thought it was worth exploring, so he transferred Agent Bruce Stubbs to help.

Stubbs' wife was reluctant to move from Thailand to authoritarian Burma. But Stubbs was excited about the potential deal with Wa State and its potential to curb the large-scale heroin trafficking originating there.

The passage establishes multiple power players that would need to cooperate or at least not obstruct for Saw Lu's dream to have any chance of success. It sets the stage for complex negotiations and potential obstacles between the various stakeholders.

Here is a summary:

  • Angelo Saladino had to break the news to his intelligence analyst Bian that she would not be able to accompany him and agent Bruce Stubbs on their upcoming trip to Wa State in Burma to help destroy a heroin lab.

  • Bian was furious at being excluded and felt she deserved to go since she had been working in Burma longer than Stubbs. Saladino's reasoning was that it would be too dangerous without being armed, and there wasn't enough space in the transport helicopters.

  • This caused a major rift between Saladino and Bian. She felt Stubbs had manipulated Saladino into keeping her out and began undermining the trip by telling others at the embassy it was a "Hollywood refinery" setup by the junta.

  • Saladino was frustrated by this, as the success of the trip was important for building trust with Wa State, whereas Bian had seemingly switched to an anti-junta stance after being excluded from participating directly. Their relationship had deteriorated significantly due to this "one ripple in time."

    Here is a summary:

  • Saladino and DEA superiors flew to Yangon to meet a high-ranking Burmese military colonel to discuss deepening cooperation on drug issues.

  • The colonel said the Wa leader was interested in reducing opium/heroin production in exchange for development aid. He welcomed DEA collaboration on eradicating surrendered drugs.

  • The DEA asked when Burma would capture notorious drug lord Khun Sa. The colonel said the military wasn't ready but suggested incentivizing the Wa to fight their way into Shan state and capture him.

  • If this occurred and Khun Sa was handed over, along with the Wa shutting down heroin production, the DEA saw it as too good an opportunity to pass up, even if the State Department opposed cooperation with the junta.

  • Saladino and the DEA bosses left more determined to expand the arrangement, believing the White House would favor neutralizing two major cartels producing half the world's opium, over the State Department's policy of isolating the Burmese junta.

  • However, the DEA's intensifying partnership with the junta concerned the State Department, which was still committed to its policy of non-engagement with the military regime.

    Here is a summary:

  • Charles Huddle was serving as acting ambassador (chargé d'affaires) of the US embassy in Burma in the absence of a full ambassador.

  • He found the DEA had too close a relationship with Burmese military intelligence and was undermining the State Department's policy of marginalizing the Burmese junta.

  • The CIA wanted the military intelligence working with them instead of DEA. They pressured Huddle to rein in the DEA.

  • Huddle told DEA head Angelo Saladino the office would be limited to three personnel. This jeopardized the role of Bian Ming, a DEA analyst critical of the junta.

  • Shortly after, Voice of America aired a report questioning whether a heroin lab destroyed in front of DEA agents was fake. This angered the junta leader Khin Nyunt.

  • At risk of being expelled from Burma within 72 hours, Saladino wrote a sycophantic letter to Khin Nyunt reassuring him of DEA's support, though he did not have headquarters approval to send it.

  • After agonizing waiting, their DEA office was allowed to remain in Burma as tensions cooled with the junta leader. But Bian's days there remained numbered.

    Here is a summary:

  • DEA agents Saladino and Stubbs had a confidential informant named Saw Lu in Burma who was the leader of the United Wa State Army, a rebel group involved in drug trafficking.

  • Saw Lu proposed a plan to the Burmese military junta to expand opium and heroin production/refining in exchange for development aid like schools and clinics. The goal was to eventually get the US involved to pick up the aid costs and open the door to more Western influence.

  • However, Saladino warned Saw Lu to move slowly with this plan as the junta could become volatile if they felt manipulated.

  • Saladino suspected his DEA office in the embassy was being bugged, possibly by the CIA or State Department, after private conversations were brought up immediately by the de facto ambassador.

  • Bian, a State Department official assigned to the DEA, strongly disliked Saladino and wanted to undermine him. She left Burma but then went to DEA headquarters to file a whistleblower complaint accusing Saladino of getting too close to Saw Lu and making illusions.

  • Someone also leaked Saladino's private letter to the junta leader, which was then used against him by the State Department to try to have him fired for going rogue from official US policy.

  • Saladino felt increasingly under threat and pressure from multiple agencies to stop working with the junta and Saw Lu on developing ties with the Wa region.

    Here is a summary of the key details:

  • Saladino's ex-boss Bian had suggested to federal investigators that Saladino may have been fleecing the DEA of tens of thousands of dollars via improper payments to his informant Saw Lu, also known as "Superstar".

  • Saladino was called to an inspection in Hong Kong where he was accused of theft related to payments to informants whose signatures on forms could match multiple people. He faced potential embezzlement charges.

  • Saladino got in touch with Saw Lu, breaking protocol, and had him quickly come to Yangon to sign the forms in different languages, proving the signatures matched one man. This cleared Saladino.

  • However, breaking protocol may have exposed Saw Lu's secret role as a DEA informant to Burmese military intelligence. Soon after, Saw Lu and his son Isaac were detained by soldiers at Northeast Command HQ in Lashio and imprisoned. Saw Lu was tortured over weeks in a cramped cement cell with no amenities while detained.

So in summary, Bian's accusations put Saladino in a difficult position where he had to break rules to prove his innocence, but that may have led to Saw Lu being discovered and tortured as a result.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Saw Lu was a high-level intelligence source for the DEA in Burma for 25 years. However, he was discovered meeting with a DEA agent, which led the military junta to suspect him of being a traitor.

  • Major Than Aye, head of intelligence in northern Shan State, found a report Saw Lu had written detailing Than Aye's collusion with drug traffickers. This enraged Than Aye.

  • Saw Lu was tortured brutally for weeks at the hands of Than Aye and his men, in an attempt to get him to sign a false confession. Torture methods included whipping, near-drowning, electrocution, and being hung upside down from a tree.

  • Despite the extreme torture, Saw Lu refused to sign the false confession. He was eventually killed by being dropped from the tree while hanging upside down.

  • The DEA agent Angelo Saladino pleaded desperately for proof Saw Lu was still alive, but the junta refused all access. Saw Lu was believed to have been tortured to death.

  • The junta still cooperated somewhat with the DEA on drug issues, as they needed the DEA to lobby against sanctions from the US. But the death of Saw Lu was a major setback to intelligence gathering efforts.

    Here is a summary:

  • Dave Sikorra arrives in Burma as a new DEA agent, replacing Angelo Saladino who is being transferred stateside due to issues with the US embassy.

  • Sikorra is overwhelmed by the intense stimulation of Yangon compared to his Midwest upbringing. At a welcome dinner, he gets sick in the bushes from the heat and culture shock.

  • Saladino briefs Sikorra on the DEA's troubled situation - their top informant "Superstar" has been detained by the military junta, disrupting intelligence gathering. The junta is also not cooperative.

  • Sikorra worries about how his nerves will hold up dealing with these challenges over several years in Burma.

  • A new lead DEA agent, Rick Horn, arrives. He is a veteran brought in to crack down on interference from the embassy and CIA. Horn immediately confronts issues like the CIA tapping the DEA's communications.

    Here is a summary:

The CIA's headquarters resented that the DEA had exclusive access to high-level Burmese intelligence officials like Khin Nyunt, while the CIA only met with low-level lackeys. This went against the CIA's usual goal of establishing relations with foreign intelligence agencies.

To ease tensions, the DEA regional director Horn agreed to brief the CIA station chief Brown weekly. However, Horn refused to let the CIA set up safe houses or bug his home, suspecting they would violate his privacy.

Relations improved over time as the embassy realized Horn wouldn't be pushed around. However, one day Horn found his living room table had been swapped without his permission while handymen were in his home, raising suspicions the CIA tried to install bugs.

In Wa State, Saw Lu was inducted as foreign minister by Chairman Lai after being tortured by the Burmese military. To gain respect, Saw Lu built up his own armed group. He proposed setting up the United Wa State Anti-Drug Organization (UWADO) modeled after the DEA to reconnect with the US by showing Wa State's commitment to combating drugs.

However, this would challenge Wa State's economy which depended on drug trafficking run by Wei. While Lai supported Saw Lu's vision, he acknowledged Wei's operation was important to Wa State's current needs and finances. Saw Lu argued they needed to develop legitimate industries to gain international support.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Agent Horn had rebuilt trust with Burma's military junta by helping reform their drug laws and anti-narcotics task force to be more like the DEA.

  • Horn took defensive measures like encrypted communications to avoid CIA surveillance, as he was planning a secret project to devastate the global heroin trade with cooperation from the junta.

  • Horn tried to recruit Agent Sikorra but he refused, fearing the scheme could severely backfire. Stubbs revealed to Sikorra that they had contact with "Superstar", the former DEA agent who now controlled drug eradication efforts in Wa State.

  • Stubbs had been meeting Superstar face-to-face in Thailand, beyond the CIA's reach. Horn's plan was to get Burma's cooperation to allow the DEA and Wa State to team up on a massive drug destruction campaign.

  • The story then transitions to introduce Bill Young, a former CIA/DEA operative in Thailand with indigenous contacts, who was told by one such contact that Saw Lu (Superstar) needed to meet with him.

So in summary, Horn was secretly plotting a high-risk joint operation with Wa State to destroy the global heroin trade, going behind the CIA's back, and was trying to enlist the help of Bill Young and leverage his indigenous contacts.

Here is a summary:

  • Saw Lu is the leader of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in Burma. He reaches out to his contact Bill Young in Thailand to discuss plans to end opium production in Wa territory.

  • Saw Lu and his men march 200 miles from Wa State to the Thai border. They pass through Wei Xuegang's opium-producing region of Wa South but do not engage.

  • In Thailand, Saw Lu meets with Bill Young and explains he needs to reconnect with his DEA contact Bruce Stubbs to discuss his plans.

  • Stubbs flies to Thailand to meet with Saw Lu and Bill. Saw Lu expresses wanting to forge ahead with eradication rather than slowly gain the Burmese military's approval.

  • Saw Lu writes a manifesto called "The Bondage of Opium" outlining a proposal for foreign assistance in exchange for ending opium. It criticizes the Burmese military.

  • Stubbs and his boss Rick Horn insist Saw Lu remove the criticisms, as the manifesto risks angering the Burmese military whose approval is still needed. Saw Lu reluctantly agrees to edit it.

  • Stubbs and Horn bring the edited manifesto back to Burma, hoping to gain approval for a joint eradication program in Wa territory.

    Here is a summary:

  • Matty Maher was the chief of global operations at the DEA, one of the highest positions. He had previously met with Saw Lu, the leader of the UWSA, and was impressed by his ability to remain calm under pressure.

  • Rick Horn, a DEA agent in Burma, proposed a plan to work with Saw Lu and the UWSA to eradicate their opium crops in exchange for aid. Maher liked the proposal and gave it initial approval.

  • Horn had to get buy-in from the Burmese government and US embassy. The government was willing to cooperate for PR reasons. Pancho Huddle, the acting US ambassador, opposed the plan as it went against his goal of pressuring Burma on human rights.

  • Maher and Horn worked to expand support for the plan with other organizations like the UN to make it harder for the State Department to block. Huddle tried to require State Department oversight of meetings, which the DEA refused.

  • Saw Lu made elaborate preparations to welcome the DEA delegation to finalize the deal at a summit. However, on the scheduled date, the helicopters with the DEA officials never arrived. Saw Lu waited for days but no one came.

  • It's believed the CIA sabotaged the summit to undermine the DEA's plan. This had major consequences, trapping Saw Lu and transforming the drug trade in the Golden Triangle region.

    To summarize:

  • Rick Horn was a DEA agent who proposed a plan to get the UWSA in Myanmar/Burma to stop opium production in exchange for development aid.

  • The CIA allegedly sabotaged the plan by feeding false information to the UWSA leaders and surreptitiously leaking sensitive documents, killing any trust in the DEA.

  • This undermined Horn's credibility and influence. He was eventually forced to leave Burma.

  • The sabotage devastated Saw Lu, the UWSA leader pushing for opium eradication. Without the DEA deal, his power declined and opium production resumed under new leadership prioritizing ties with China over the US.

  • Horn sued the CIA officer allegedly involved and eventually received a $3 million settlement, though the CIA did not admit wrongdoing. The sabotage left lasting damage in Burma/Myanmar.

    Here is a summary:

  • Wei Xuegang, the finance czar and drug lord of the UWSA, attended high-level meetings in Panghsang for the first time. He listened quietly but was very influential.

  • Under Wei and Li Ziru's influence, the UWSA stripped Saw Lu of his remaining authority and military rank. Saw Lu became marginalized in meetings.

  • One day, after a tense meeting where Saw Lu snapped at Li Ziru, Chairman Bao warned Saw Lu his life was in danger and urged him to flee the country that night. Bao offered Saw Lu money but he refused to leave.

  • Soldiers then came and took Saw Lu away, putting him in an underground dirt cell as punishment for maligned Wei. His downfall was now complete under Wei's power in the UWSA.

  • Wei then used Saw Lu's demise to pursue his goal of consolidating power. He helped orchestrate the UWSA's takeover of Shanland from their rival cartel led by Khun Sa, greatly expanding the UWSA's territory and power in the region under Wei's leadership.

    Here is a summary:

The entry describes an initially planned, but later canceled, route to enter the semiautonomous region of Wa State in Myanmar/Burma through semi-illegal means. The plan was to enter northern Thailand, cross into Laos, wait in a casino town along the Mekong known for criminal activity, then take a boat upriver to an area patrolled by militias. From there, a driver would transport the author over 12 hours of mountain roads to the Wa capital of Panghsang.

However, a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Myanmar made the Wa unwilling to host Westerners. Then the COVID pandemic began in China, closing borders. This canceled the trip.

The author then connected with a local contact, Huli, who wanted to start an "adventure tourism" business bringing Westerners into Wa State illegally via mountain terrain. However, this seemed risky. The author then explored potentially entering through Wa South on the Thai border instead, going there multiple times with guides but not crossing fully due to the dangers and militarization of the area, which has a major methamphetamine industry tied to the UWSA.

Here is a summary:

The passage describes the forced displacement of Shan villagers from their fertile ancestral lands in the Mong Kan valleys of northern Myanmar by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in 2001.

An elderly Shan man named Yanda recounts how UWSA soldiers came to his village and gave the villagers an ultimatum to leave immediately, claiming the land now belonged to the Wa. Those who resisted, like the village headman, were tortured and killed as an example.

The displaced Shan refugees established a makeshift camp on an infertile hilltop, struggling to survive. They later risked crossing into the former fields to plant rice but were banned from doing so by the UWSA in 2019.

Yanda expresses deep sadness at seeing the Wa grow cash crops like rubber on the stolen land instead of food. The displacement over 20 years ago trapped the Shan people in poverty on the hill with little arable land, under constant watch by the Wa from a nearby fortress.

Here is a summary:

  • Saw Lu was a respected leader in the Wa community in Lashio, Burma who led them to safety from persecution by the Burmese military in the 1970s. He was like a prophet to the community.

  • In 1992, Saw Lu was tortured by the Burmese junta and fled to Wa State to escape further harm, leaving his children behind. This left the community in Lashio vulnerable without his protection.

  • Jacob and Saw Lu's daughter Grace grew close after Saw Lu left. They eventually married in 1995 but faced ongoing harassment from Burmese authorities.

  • In 1997, they decided to move to Wa State to seek freedom. However, they found Saw Lu living in poverty and essentially under house arrest, having been sidelined for failing in his mission to curb the drug trade.

  • Jacob was shocked by the overt drug trade and public executions he witnessed in Wa State. He had a crisis of identity and purpose, but Saw Lu encouraged him to join the system and teach to help improve the nation from within.

  • Jacob then enrolled in the United Wa State Army as a teacher to promote literacy, as Saw Lu had earlier done, hoping to spread his moderate influence.

    Here is a summary:

  • Jacob started teaching English at a military training school in Wa State that was training young cadets to be nationalist leaders. The cadets were much younger than expected, between 6-14 years old, and were subject to brutal physical training.

  • Jacob grew to respect Wa State's leader, Chairman Bao, after meeting him a few times. Despite its flaws, Jacob and his wife Grace decided to make Wa State their permanent home and work to improve the nation.

  • Chairman Bao was concerned about corruption as commanders were profiting greatly from the drug trade. He wanted to diversify the economy away from opium and attract foreign aid.

  • The UN set up a small alternative development project in Wa State to help transition farmers away from poppy production. Bao declared opium production would be banned by 2005.

  • Wei Xuegang, the wealthy drug lord of Wa South, agreed to participate in opium eradication in exchange for Bao sending him over 120,000 Wa people to populate his territory. This was seen as a major social engineering effort.

    Here is a summary:

  • Most of the migration of Wa poppy farmers occurred between 1999-2001, when the United Wa State Army (UWSA) forcibly relocated hundreds of thousands of Wa peasants from mountainous areas to the gentler terrain of Wa South near the Chinese border.

  • The relocations involved waking villagers at dawn, giving them 30 minutes to evacuate with no belongings, then marching them for days to trucks that packed them tightly for uncomfortable long rides to their new villages. Many died from malaria and other diseases in the new locations.

  • Wei Xuegang, the leader of the UWSA, gave a rare speech acknowledging that opium revenues would decline as Myanmar cracked down on poppy cultivation. He promised new sources of income but did not provide specifics.

  • Wei was orienting drug production away from heroin and toward methamphetamine to deter the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from capturing or killing him. Meth production would be highly profitable and revolutionize the Asian drug trade without involving opium cultivation.

So in summary, it describes the forced migration of Wa farmers and Wei's transition from heroin to meth production to maintain profits and autonomy from the DEA. Compliance with the opium ban was mandatory but new revenue sources like meth were planned.

Here is a summary:

  • John Whalen was a DEA agent posted to Burma to target drug lord Wei Xuegang. He developed good relationships with Burmese officials like KT, but they wouldn't take him on risky raids. His job required slow, methodical intelligence gathering.

  • Tracking a sophisticated drug kingpin like Wei required a strategic approach, not brute force. The DEA had Wei's location pinpointed but the Burmese refused to raid him due to his powerful militia allies.

  • Whalen aimed to weaken the relationship between Wei and UWSA chairman Bao Youxiang by driving a wedge between them.

  • As the UWSA eradicated opium crops, Wei ramped up crystal meth and speed pill production using industrial labs and skilled chemists.

  • Wei created enhanced pink speed pills cut with meth and flavoring. These outcompeted traditional homemade pills and transformed the Asian drug market due to Wei's unmatched production capabilities as a rogue state leader.

    Here is a summary:

  • Wei, a drug lord in Wa State, shifted from producing heroin to producing methamphetamine pills ("ya-ba" or "insanity pills") to make up for lost revenue from declining heroin sales.

  • The pills were stamped "WY" to differentiate them from another popular brand stamped "W". Producing meth was more lucrative than heroin as it did not depend on poppy crops and was harder to detect from satellites.

  • Meth became popular in Southeast Asia's growing economies as workers used it to stay alert during long shifts. Wa State targeted this new regional market rather than exporting to the U.S.

  • Saw Lu, a former Wa State leader who had been in exile for 5 years, was allowed to return to society as a farmer. However, he secretly still dreamed of transforming Wa State away from drugs and gaining U.S. recognition.

  • Under the guise of seeking medical treatment in Thailand, Saw Lu planned to pursue his dream independently, against the new drug-centric path of Wa State under Wei's influence.

    Here is a summary:

  • Saw Lu traveled across the Thai border after a difficult journey, seeking help from his friend Bill Young. Though several years had passed, Bill was much the same - still working as an unofficial DEA operative.

  • Saw Lu and Bill hatch a plot known as the "Whiskey Alpha rebellion" to depose the leadership of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and align the Wa people with the "Free World." Their goal is also to deliver Wei Xuegang, the leader of the UWSA, to prison.

  • Saw Lu believes replacing the UWSA's production and trafficking of heroin with methamphetamine ("ya-ba" pills) is merely exchanging one poison for another. He thinks the Wa leaders are naive if they think this will improve their image.

  • Saw Lu must reach out to his family and followers to explain his plans, but for now his priority is reaching Chiang Mai to cooperate with Bill in plotting their coup against the UWSA leadership.

    Here is a summary:

  • A lieutenant in Jok's squad was killed by shrapnel from an explosion. His body had a tiny wound that didn't bleed much. No matter how much they shook him, he wouldn't wake up.

  • Jok blamed corrupted intelligence from the Thai informants (CI) for leading his squad into an ambush by the United Wa State Army (UWSA). The UWSA had its own network of informants in Thai villages.

  • After the lieutenant's death, Jok was full of "wrath-heart" or desire for vengeance against the Wa. Captured Wa fighters would not provide any information and sometimes hung themselves if left alone in their cells.

  • The story introduces Saw Lu, a Wa man conspiring with an American operative named Bill to overthrow the Wa government. Bill's plan was called "Whiskey Alpha" and involved backing Wa dissidents in a coup to replace the current leadership and end drug trafficking.

  • Bill wanted to reassemble the former League of Warlords to help in the coup, including contacting Shah and Mahasang the Prince for support. Saw Lu would work on the inside to recruit others and find weaknesses in the government.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Many Burmese ethnic minority activists opposed to the Burmese military regime worked with Western-funded groups in Thailand to try and promote democracy in Burma.

  • Mahasang positioned himself as an alternate representative of the Wa tribe, portraying them more positively than the drug trafficking leaders of the UWSA. However, he was still a minor warlord collecting tolls in the Golden Triangle region.

  • Bill Young, a former DEA agent, proposed a coup plot called Whiskey Alpha to Mahasang and other ex-warlords like Saw Lu. The plan was for Mahasang's militia to be the nucleus of the rebellion against the UWSA leadership.

  • Bill wanted support from the Thai military and US technology/communications to boost the coup's chances. If successful, the coup leaders would take control of Wa State under the blessing of its founding father Lai.

  • The UWSA leadership, led by Bao Youxiang and Wei Xuegang, were diversifying revenue streams through various business ventures to launder money and clean up the Wa reputation ahead of their goal to eradicate poppy farming.

  • DEA agent Whalen attended a propaganda tour in Wa State organized by the UWSA to showcase alternative development projects. To his surprise, he ended up sitting next to Bao Youxiang on the helicopter ride.

    Here is a summary:

The DEA was preparing an operation against Wa State leaders called "Operation Warlord" which involved indicting top UWSA leaders including Bao and Wei brothers on drug trafficking charges. The DEA announced its intent to capture and extradite these leaders to face minimum 10 year sentences in the US. They also put bounties up to $2 million on Wei.

The operation was set to launch the same day UN diplomats were scheduled to visit Wa State to see their progress reducing opium production. The DEA warned the UN to cancel the visit as the operation could provoke a hostile reaction from Wa leaders that could endanger the foreign guests.

News of the impending operation spread panic in Panghsang as it became known that foreigners were being told to evacuate quietly, indicating something major was about to happen between the US and Wa State.

Here is a summary:

  • By 2010, 5 years after Operation Warlord, the capital city of Panghsang in Wa State had transformed into a more developed, urban area resembling a third-tier Chinese city. High-rise buildings, wide avenues, Toyota pickups, and Chinese billboards were prominent.

  • An entertainment district downtown featured casinos and hotels catering to rich Wa and Chinese visitors at night. Massage parlors employing Chinese-speaking women also operated in the area.

  • Operation Warlord by the US effectively made Wa State a pariah state, scare off UN aid and forcing greater dependence on China as their sole ally. Instead of threatening the Wa, this increased Chinese embrace and support for Wa State. The capital city's development reflected growing Chinese influence and connection to the Wa region after international isolation.

    Here is a summary:

  • After Wa State became a protectorate of China, it benefited from increased infrastructure funding but also became heavily dependent on China.

  • Some Wa officials worried this would turn Wa State into a vassal of China, while others welcomed the economic progress.

  • Jacob, a Baptist official, was uncomfortable with Chinese influence like casinos and vice industries in the capital city.

  • He disliked Wa State being called a "shanzhai China," or knock-off version of China, by visiting Chinese.

  • As a literacy official, Jacob found the department dysfunctional and his boss illiterate, so he took it upon himself to single-handedly design a new curriculum for Wa middle schools to preserve Wa culture.

  • This gave Jacob renewed purpose and dedication to uplifting the Wa people through education. He hoped to counter China's influence through promoting the Wa language and history in schools.

    Here is a summary:

Gent John Whalen, a DEA agent, would regularly visit Bill Young in Chiang Mai, Thailand to get information. Bill, who was in poor health, managed a network of informants in the Golden Triangle region. His most valuable informant was Saw Lu, a Wa man who had been providing the DEA with intelligence on the UWSA and drug lord Wei Xuegang for over 20 years, despite facing great risks.

Saw Lu was able to gather important details about Wei's drug trafficking operations through attending social gatherings with UWSA leaders in Panghsang, where they discussed Wei's business freely. Wei had transformed the UWSA's "Ministry of Finance" into a sophisticated narcotics and money laundering empire, pursuing a "landlord model" where he rented land to Chinese drug syndicates to set up meth labs and taxed their profits. He had also outsourced much of the production and transportation to other criminal groups.

This model brought Wei great wealth and influence, worrying other UWSA leaders like Bao Youzhi. Meanwhile, other militias began copying Wei's model with the tacit approval of the Burmese regime, hoping to capitalize on the lucrative drug trade, though still relying on Wei's territory for transport routes. Through Saw Lu's intelligence, the DEA was able to gain valuable insight into Wei's growing criminal network in the Golden Triangle region.

Here is a summary:

  • Jacob had created prototype literacy textbooks in the Wa language for the UWSA's education department, but his boss rejected the idea of printing and distributing them, dismissing Jacob's years-long efforts.

  • Jacob confronted his boss angrily about this, but his boss told him to drop it. Jacob fell into drinking and partying with other officials as a result of his disappointment.

  • One night in September 2010, Jacob returned home to find his father-in-law Saw Lu's house had been ransacked by unknown men in dark green uniforms calling themselves "special police." They had taken Saw Lu away without explanation.

  • The next day, Jacob and his wife/family went to the local prison to inquire about Saw Lu, but the warden refused to confirm if he was being held there or not. Jacob suspected Saw Lu had been arrested for some serious charges that the officials did not want to disclose. He threatened to come back daily with food for Saw Lu to ensure his health and safety in detention.

  • The summary focuses on Jacob's efforts to introduce education reforms, the rejection of his work, and the mysterious arrest of his father-in-law Saw Lu by unidentified special police officials.

    Here is a summary:

Saw Lu is imprisoned by Wei Xuegang's people and interrogated, beaten, and tortured for information about an Operation Hotspot that the DEA launched targeting Wei. Saw Lu maintains his innocence, saying he knows nothing about it. Jacob, distraught over Saw Lu's disappearance, descends into depression and considers trying heroin.

In prison, Saw Lu's health deteriorates as the beatings continue. Bao Youxiang, leader of the UWSA, faces a dilemma - allow Wei to kill Saw Lu, angering factions loyal to Saw Lu, or challenge Wei's power by trying to free Saw Lu, risking a cut in critical drug revenue from Wei. As Bao deliberates, Saw Lu becomes a symbol testing who truly holds power, Wei or Bao. Jacob is warned by one of Bao's nephews, now his commanding officer, to stay out of the "big political mess" involving Saw Lu.

Here is a summary:

  • Jacob takes a job as an adjutant for a UWSA commander in Naung Khit region, overseeing economic development including natural resources and pink pill trafficking.

  • As adjutant, Jacob manages the commander's schedule and travels between Naung Khit and the capital. He develops a heroin addiction but believes his commander is unaware.

  • Saw Lu has a serious stroke in prison and is rushed to a hospital in China, where he survives but is partly paralyzed. Jacob retrieves him from the border.

  • Saw Lu makes a risky phone call to Bill Young asking for help, but Bill is distraught over breaking his promise to Saw Lu and ends up killing himself.

  • Saw Lu's fate depends on the UWSA faction led by Bao, as political changes in Burma create an opportunity. UWSA officials negotiate to remove Saw Lu from Wa State secretly before Wei can have him assassinated.

  • In mid-July 2011, Saw Lu's family escapes Wa State under armed escort by Deputy Xiao, who is emotional about Saw Lu having to leave, to be remembered in their hearts forever.

    Here is a summary:

They drove Saw Lu's family from their home in Wa State to Lashio amid concerns over the political situation. Saw Lu's son Jacob elected to stay behind, as he was struggling with heroin addiction.

Jacob lived with a commander and was given privileges, but continued using heroin in secret. When discovered, he was sent to prison to detox but fell back into addiction after release.

The commander tried to control Jacob's life after prison but Jacob managed to go visit his family in Lashio for Christmas. He begged his father-in-law Saw Lu for forgiveness for abandoning his family due to addiction.

Saw Lu, who still wielded authority over family matters, agreed to help Jacob. He sent Jacob to a Baptist rehabilitation camp in the Burmese hills. Through faith, ritual, and manual labor, Jacob was able to overcome his addiction and find peace.

On October 31, 2019, Saw Lu was living in Lashio when his daughter Grace's American dinner guest arrived to meet him. Saw Lu talked to the man (the narrator) late into the night, sharing his stories. This was the beginning of the narrator learning about Saw Lu's life and political history in Wa State.

Here is a summary:

The passage describes the grim situation in Myanmar/Burma in the summer of 2021, as the military carried out a coup and cracked down violently on dissent. COVID-19 also swept through the country.

Jacob, the narrator's contact, sends disturbing photos - one showing Saw Lu, a Wa leader the narrator had known, dead in his bed from COVID. Only a few people could attend Saw Lu's rushed funeral due to the pandemic and conflict.

The epilogue reflects on Saw Lu's life and quest to reform the Wa people. Though well-intentioned, he embodied some of the flawed assumptions of the U.S.-led "War on Drugs." His death underscores how the drug war has complicated U.S. relations with groups like the Wa.

In predicting Wa State's future, the narrator expects the meth trade to continue flourishing as Wa groups have developed new precursor chemical synthesis skills. While the aging Wei Xuegang is now retired, others still run the lucrative operations. In contrast, everyday Wa people face an uncertain future amid conflict and economic troubles.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Wei Xuegang, founder and leader of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), is stepping back from his duties at age 80 but has not publicly named a successor. A trusted inner circle is managing day-to-day operations.

  • The UWSA is diversifying revenue streams and sees information technology as the future, including cryptocurrency, online casinos, and sex cam websites. Younger people are more interested in IT than the drug trade.

  • While some scammer operations extort money through phone scams, the UWSA avoids direct involvement in the most harmful illegal activities and focuses on taking a shareholder role and ensuring security.

  • UWSA elites live extravagantly in luxury homes in Panghsang while over half of Wa people never get an education and basic illness can be fatal, despite laws requiring 10% of revenue go to those services.

  • The Wa people have gained a voice through social media apps like WeChat and Douyin which show both daily life and criminal/violent scenes.

  • Wa State is stable as a de facto autonomous region within Burma protected by its relationship with China, but could thrive more if revenues supported education and healthcare. The next generation of leaders may be open to diversified international aid.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • The document is a proposal from Saw Lu and the United Wa State Party/Army to eradicate opium growing and end heroin production in Wa territory. They have full authority to carry this out.

  • A "plea" is included as the Wa people would need food support during the transition period away from the opium economy, as they are very poor. Ending opium growing without substitutes would mean starvation.

  • For 30 years the Wa have tried to end opium but become more dependent on it. Like addicts, they are in "bondage" to opium and seeking help to break free.

  • Wa territory is a major opium producer but past government policies only pretended to suppress it while secretly encouraging it. The Wa were used as fighters by others for decades.

  • In 1989 the Wa rebelled and formed their own autonomous state under Wa leadership for the first time. They now want to free themselves from opium dependency.

  • Food support is urgently needed during the transition as the people cannot risk change without assurance of not starving. Protection is also needed from outsider pressure to grow opium.

  • Beyond food, long-term development support is requested including crop substitution, improved agriculture techniques, livestock breeding, and more. This outside assistance has never reached the Wa due to war and Burmese isolation.

    Here is a summary:

The passage discusses several needs and priorities of the Wa people and United Wa State Party. It details the lack of existing infrastructure like paved roads, medical facilities, schools, and reforestation efforts. New infrastructure is needed to support a modern economy. Quality medical care is nonexistent as there are no hospitals or clinics, and medicines and facilities are needed. Education is also severely lacking as most Wa people have no formal schooling. Schools and educational systems need to be developed to educate leaders and create a literate population. Cultural preservation is also a priority. Developmental assistance is desperately needed in the form of grants, loans, technical advice, and agricultural aid from any sources.

Politically, the goal is to restore real democracy for all of Burma where minority rights are protected. The democracy sought is not the sham system under the previous military junta. Autonomy for the Wa people within Burma is desired through restoration of the historic Wa State that existed until 1962. Ending opium production and developing the Wa State through rehabilitation efforts are top priorities, along with achieving democracy in Burma. The proposal asks for cooperation rather than arms to achieve mutual benefits of ending the opium economy and heroin trade.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • The "one-third" figure referring to CIA involvement in the opium trade comes from Richard Stilwell, former chief of the CIA's Far East Division from 1949-1952.

  • Allegations of the CIA flying opium out of Burma first emerged in a 1953 report by Burma's government to the UN.

  • The "Exiles" group that dominated the opium trade comprised two factions led by Lee Wen-huan and Tuan Shi-wen, former soldiers under the Kuomintang in China. They worked closely with the Thai military which was aligned with the CIA.

  • CIA memos from the 1970s and 1980s acknowledge the Exiles' control of smuggling routes in the region.

  • The CIA's funding of the Thai military during the Cold War facilitated the military's protection of the Exiles.

  • A 1982 Thai op-ed criticizes the government for allowing the Exiles, known to be involved in the drug trade, to operate in the country.

  • Details are provided on the scale of the Exiles' operations and revenues in the late 1960s-early 1970s based on CIA data, estimated in the hundreds of millions to billions in today's dollars.

  • CIA reports acknowledge the involvement of overseas Chinese, like the Exiles, in the narcotics trade in Southeast Asia.

  • Sources like a former CIA official confirm the agency used bases in northern Thailand for operations into China and monitoring communications, with drug trafficking also taking place.

    Here is a summary of the provided section:

The passage discusses Wei Xuegang's rise to power after escaping from prison under Khun Sa's regime in Shanland. It describes how Wei initially joined the Wa National Army faction led by Shah in Thailand's Chiang Mai province. Multiple sources, including a former Shanland officer and Wa National Army officer, corroborate these details of Wei's early life, though their accounts do not fully agree on certain facts. The passage also touches on CIA records of amassing intercepted Soviet and Chinese communications during the 1960s that remained uncracked. Overall, the section establishes Wei's backstory after leaving Shanland and sets up his involvement with various armed groups operating in the Golden Triangle region.

Here is a summary of the information provided:

Chiang Mai is one of the most beautiful mountain resort towns in Thailand. Some call it "Little Switzerland" due to its stunning natural scenery and mountain surroundings, similar to that of Switzerland. It is located in northern Thailand and is a popular tourist destination known for its historic architecture, temples, gardens, and proximity to nature and outdoor activities.

Here is a summary:

  • A pod of opium poppies yields just under 1 gram of opium on average.

  • A hectare of poppies will yield around 11-12 kilograms of opium on average, but this varies year-to-year.

  • In 1993, Saladino and Stubbs from the DEA participated in burning several heroin processing labs in areas administered by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and neighboring territories like Kokang and Mong La under Burma's "Border Area Development Plan." However, this plan was largely ineffective at curbing drug production.

  • The DEA sought to expand intelligence sharing with Burma's counterintelligence chief in 1990 but faced challenges given the military government's involvement in the drug trade. Congressional hearings raised doubts about the reliability of drug eradication statistics from Burma.

  • Scholars like Bertil Lintner documented how the drug trade in the Golden Triangle region, including areas governed by groups like the UWSA, continued to thrive despite periodic burnings of drug labs.

    Here is a summary:

  • The number of drug task forces in the United States grew from 5 in 1988 to 16 in 1993. This led to a 50% increase in heroin seizures in 1992.

  • In 1993, representatives from the DEA and Burmese government held several meetings to discuss a plan for mass opium eradication and alternative crop development in Burma. The DEA claimed they could provide $50 million in funding, though sources interviewed did not confirm this exact figure.

  • The plan involved facilitating meetings between opium producers in Burma, Burmese government officials, and UN drug officials. The UN was cautiously optimistic about the opportunity for alternative development programs. However, the US State Department was wary of losing leverage over Burma's human rights issues and drug policy.

  • After initial support, a State Department representative may have undermined the program by passing internal documents to the CIA and Burmese government, jeopardizing the plan and DEA's credibility in Burma. This led to removal of the DEA country attache from Burma.

  • In summary, the passages discuss a potential 1993 plan for opium eradication in Burma involving the DEA, Burmese government, and UN. However, internal opposition from the US State Department may have compromised and derailed the efforts.

    Here are the key points from the summaries:

  • The UNODC estimates that Myanmar-based drug trafficking organizations like the UWSA produce between 2-6 billion ya-ba pills per year. Meth ("ya-ba" pills) dominates the drug market in Southeast Asia, with an estimated 50+ billion pills produced since 2000.

  • In the late 1990s/early 2000s, the Thai military pressured ethnic armed groups along its borders to transform into militias under army control. The UWSA resisted this, insisting on its autonomy.

  • In 2010, the US and Thailand launched "Operation Hotspot" targeting the UWSA and its leader Wei Xuegang for drug trafficking. However, Wei and the UWSA maintained influence in the region due to development projects and financial support for local communities.

  • By the 2020s, China had emerged as the primary diplomatic partner of the UWSA, though the group continued involvement in the drug trade to fund its autonomous rule in the Wa region.

  • Saw Lu and other CPB leaders misrepresented the party's actual tolerance of opium production in border areas to shift blame solely to non-Wa outsider groups. In reality, the CPB at times taxed and permitted local opium harvesting by Wa villagers.

    Here is a summary:

  • Some ethnic Wa commanders engaged in large-scale human trafficking against the party's wishes.

  • In talking about a "Wa State" before 1989, Saw Lu was referring to what the British called the "Wa States" - numerous small political entities (statelets) with a lower level of development than other parts of Burma.

  • Essentially, Saw Lu meant the Wa people were not governed by any country and ruled themselves through various warlord fiefdoms and fortress towns - tiny "states" for lack of a better word.

  • He did not mean there was a fully functional Wa State government as the term implies now.

  • Saw Lu's point was that after seizing power in 1962, the Burmese military should have carved out a separate zone or state for the Wa people and given them some degree of self-rule.

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