Khun Sa still respected at his former headquarters – Arn Tai

The late Khun Sa may be still regarded as a traitor in several quarters for surrendering to the Burma Army, but not in Homong, opposite Maehongson, where he had ruled for more than 10 years.

This I found out when I was up there last week. Each home that I visited had his photo hung on the wall in the living room. The photo of Maha Ja, the present leader and Commander of the Homong People’s Militia Force (PMF) is also seen alongside his. Those who used to serve in Khun Sa’s Mong Tai Army (MTA) also proudly displayed their own photos in full uniform.

“The Burma Army hasn’t voiced any complaint so far,” said the guide who is a member of the Homong PMF. “They have left us strictly alone. Maybe they are just happy we haven’t joined up with the SSA (Shan State Army) South.”
Click to enlarge image hm-maket.jpg
Homong market
At the first Union level meeting in Taunggyi, Naypyitaw’s chief negotiator U Aung Min had agreed to hand over Homong and its nearby sub-township Monghta to the SSA South. However the Burma Army had overturned the agreement. Lt-Gen Aung Than Tut, who visited Homong last month, summed up this way: “How can we agree to the removal of the good guys (the PMF) for the bad guys (the SSA)?”
The SSA South, led by Lt-Gen Yawdserk, has his base at Loi Taileng, some 30 km as the crow flies east of Homong. His troops are also active in the surrounding areas. Its last major clash with the local Burma Army units took place in May. The fighting ceased soon after Yawdserk met Burma Army chief Gen Soe Win in Kengtung on 19 May.

Almost every home also has installed a home phone with Thai numbers beginning with 053, the area code for Maehongson, Chiangmai and Chiangrai.
A few days visit is not sufficient for making an accurate assessment and I was there only as an invited guest to a funeral. But Homong seems to be a prosperous town just like it was during Khun Sa’s days.

There’s a new hotel and a new temple constructed with teakwood, a meritorious deed by Maha Ja, who is reputed as a druglord under the protection of Naypyitaw.

Indeed, I saw poppy fields on both sides of the motorroad leading from Homong to the Ta Hsop Teng Salween crossing in the north. However they are far from the road, reminding me of what Burmese commanders used to tell the poppy farmers: Grow it on the nape (out of sight) not on the forehead (within sight).
On our way back to the border at Namonlong, we saw several Shan villagers going into Thailand.

“There are more going out (to Thailand) than coming back,” said a PMF member who has a home in Namonlong, opposite Rawng Haeng, a village in Thailand. “Especially, after the rice harvest in October and November, more people pass through Homong to find work there. Only some of them return before the paddy season begins.”

Khun Sa took Homong in 1985 and had remained there until his surrender in 1996 after a mutiny in June 1995 broke the backbone of his MTA. He died in 2007 at the age of 73 in Rangoon.


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