Khun Sa – Opium Warlord

KHUN SA aka Zhang Qifu

KHun Sa The Opium Warlord / Shan Freedom Fighter


The Opium Warlord / Shan Freedom Fighter

Chronological history

  • Born 17 February 1934 in Loi Maw in the Mong Yai State
  • Named Zhang Qifu. Changed his name to Khun Sa.
  • He had a Chinese father and a Shan mother
  • Originally trained as a soldier in the Kuomintang (KMT) Chinese Nationalist Army, but broke way & formed his own militia
  • Khun Sa reigned in the Golden Triangle 1960s and 1970s
  • 1963 operated freely at the head of his own militia of 10,000–20,000 men & claimed to be fighting for the independence of the Shan people
  • 1964 went to live in Hin Taek for a year
  • 1967 lost the famous 1967 Opium War battle for the opium caravan at Ban Khwan in Laos, opposite Chiang Saen.
  • 1969 he was arrested & imprisoned in Rangoon.
  • 1973 his men abducted two Russian doctors & exchanged them for Khun Sa’s release
  • 1974 Khun Sa released from prison in Myanmar
  • 1976 settled in Hin Taek
  • Khun Sa built schools, a hospital, water & electricity supplies to help the villagers of Hin Taek
  • 1978 Khun Sa proposed a deal with the Carter government in the USA: to sell it 500 tons of raw opium over a five-year period for $30 million. The deal was rejected.
  • 1980 the Thai prime minister, Prem Tinsulanonda, ordered the air force to bomb his base but failed to remove him.
  • 1982 the Thai army, led by Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyut, launched a large-scale assault with 800 Thai Border Patrol Police. The battle lasted three days & only with air support were Khun Sa’s forces defeated. Killed in the battle were 51 of Khun Sa’s men and 16 Thai soldiers.
  • Khun Sa retreated to Myanmar.
  • Set up a new camp in Burma; first on Doi Larng near Fang, then at Homong on the Burmese side of the border, north of Mae Hong Son.
  • In 1996 he surrendered to authorities in Myanmar and retired to Yangon.
  • Hin Taek was renamed Thoed Thai
  • Khun Sa died in Rangoon Sunday, 28 October 2007. He is survived by three daughters and five sons.
  • There was a Memorial Service for Khun Sa in Thoed Thai on 7th November 2007.

Khun Sa’s old camp has been turned into a museum for tourists to appreciate some of the history of the Golden Triangle.

The Khun Sa Museum

You can’t claim to have done the Golden Triangle until you’ve been to Thoed Thai & seen Khun Sa’s old camp / headquarters

Khun Sa -006

Take a look at the Khun Sa Camp – Museum Photo Gallery for more images.

Don’t miss it! Thoed Thai is a wonderful diverse cultural experience with many different hill tribe people. The town is remote, but also quite safe, very traditional, and accessible by good asphalt roads.

  • To find your way to Thoed Thai the best map to use is the GT Rider Golden Triangle Guide map.
  • In Thoed Thai, highly recommend stay at the Rim Taan Guesthouse; one of the true hidden gems in North Thailand.
Rim Taan Guesthouse, the entrance. Thoed Thai.
Rim Taan Guesthouse. Thoed Thai.
The GT Rider