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Tai-land Revolutionary Army (TRA)

For many years, revenues from the thriving opium trade of the Golden Triangle have financed a multitude of guerrilla bands in Burma's traditionally rebellious Shan State and TRA' s predecessors were no exception. The new army was formed in April 1984, when Mo Heings former San United Revolutionary Army (SURA) joined forces with segments of the old nationalist movement, the Shan State Army (SSA), in the first successful attempt in many years to create some semblance of unity among the divided ranks of the Shan rebels.

According to Mo Heing, the preference for the local term Tai over the English-Burmese word Shan is an effort to stress the group's solidarity with the Thai across the border. The Shan, Thai, and Lao are similar to the Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians in their national and linguistic ties-and in their rivalries and historically conditioned mistrust. Access to the Thai border has always been seen as extremely important by most of the guerrilla movements in Burma, since this makes it possible to purchase weapons and ammunition on the black market in Thailand - and connections with the West for publicity and recognition abroad.

Drugs with a street-value of 70 million kroner went up in smoke. Package after package of raw opium and heroin base was thrown onto the bonfire and the sweet fragrance of burning raw opiates wafted in our nostrils. Smoke worth millions rose skyward, to the applause of the onlookers. "The battle against the opium trade will no longer be used as an excuse to attack us," said guerril1a" leader Mo Heing, head of the newly formed Tai-land Revolutionary Army (TRA), in his speech at the opium bonfire.

The decision to burn the opium and heroin was a dramatic, almost desperate attempt to gain international sympathy and understanding for a movement about which most outsiders have only a vague notion at best. As a result, the name change and the opium burning must be seen as an attempt by the new army to distance itself from the private army of the notorious opium king Khun Sasi - the Shan United Army (SUA).

The source of the narcotics that were burned was another indication of the Shan rebels desire to create their own political image: the opium and heroin had been captured during an attack on a convoy of Communist Party of Burma (CPB) soldiers. The CPB was one of the few remaining genuine Moaist parties in Southeast Asia. In early July 1984 the TRA managed to locate a Communist opium convoy moving toward the Thai border. Over 100 CPB soldiers and carriers were approaching TRA territory and the TRA ambush that had been set for several days. When the smoke lifted over the battlefield, the TRA had captured over 50 packages of opium and heroin base and taken ll CPB soldiers captive. The CPB sent opium caravans to Thailand on a regular basis Each. carrier had almost 10 kg opium on his back. The journey from the CPB base area near the Chinese border took about a month.

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Page last modified: 09-06-2013 16:52:17 ZULU