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The flag of the Mong Tai Army

The Mong Tai Army (also, Muang Tai Army, MTA) is a former resistance force of the Shan minority in Burma, founded by Khun Sa. It had up to 20 000 armed members and was one of the forces opposing the central government. It was also involved in drug trafficking.


The Muang Tai army was formed in 1985, through the merger of two nationalist paramilitary groups, SUA (Shan United Army) and the Moh Heng-faction of SURA Shan United Revolutionary Army. Both these groups, while nominally fighting for the independence of Shan from Burma, were also functioning as private armies of two warlords (Khun Sa and Moh Heng, respectively), both heavily involved in the drug trade.[1]

On 7 July 1995 a rebellion broke out in the Muang Tai Army, and 8,000 fighters under the command of Colonel Yod Kan and Dae Wain retreated into the village Hsipaw, where they built a new base. They called themselves the Shan State National Army, and the group intended to negotiate a ceasefire with the Myanmar military government. Khun Sa claimed that the source of the problems were that the soldiers did not wish to fight under a half Chinese leader. The rebels claimed that the drug profits go only to Khun Sa and the civilians suffered in the fight against the Myanmar military regime. The Mung Tai Army never recovered from this rebellion.[2]

Ultimately the conflicts fought by the Muang Tai Army claimed thousands of lives.[3] But eventually in 1996 Khun Sa and his army surrendered to the Burmese army.

Most of the MTA laid down their arms but around 3,000 formed the Shan United Revolutionary Army in the southwest region of Burma. According to the State Peace and Development Council, the terms of the surrender stipulated that in return for ending his insurgency and surrendering his weaponry, Khun Sa would be allowed to live under close government supervision in Rangoon, where he could engage indirectly, via third-party investors, in legitimate business—but not drug trafficking—and would not be prosecuted for his trafficking activities or extradited to the US.[4] Khun Sa was not only pardoned by the Government of Myanmar but received the title "honoured elder" and was allowed to live out the remained of his life in Yangoon where he died in 2007.[5]


Khun Sa has frequently claimed that the Muang Tai Army was not about the drug business, actually being opposed to the opium crop. Khun Sa once offered to sell the entire opium crop to the U.S. government, but the US refused this offer. In 1989, Khun Sa was charged by a New York court for trying to import 1,000 tons of heroin. His drug trafficking resulted in the US DEA offering a $ 2,000,000 bounty for his arrest.


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