Second Of A Five-Part Interview With Khun Sa
by Kim Gooi For New Straits Times, TUES, January 28, 1986.
Click the images respectively, for a larger view.
Getting Behind The Legend Of Khun Sa, The Opium King
Man The World Thought Had Died
NEWS STRAITS TIMES, EXCLUSIVE, Monday, January 27, 1986.
“I am very much alive as you can see,” said Khun Sa, the Opium King and master of the Golden Triangle – an area where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet – his personal fiefdom.
Looking robust and healthy, and not much older since he was last seen, KimGooi met up with General Khun Sa, then 52, in December of 1985, more than six months after the first contact was made with an “agent.”
Not since more than 10 years ago has any journalist met Khun Sa.
And not since Adrian Cowell made the “Unknown War” in the sixties has anyone seen his picture.
Patience and months of meetings and talks with the contact man in Bangkok finally gave Kim Gooi the green light to meet up with the big boss.
Kim Gooi invited another freelance TV journalist along and made the necessary preparations.
The following exclusive interview by Kim Gooi reveals the agonizing and tension-filled journey over the Shan Highlands.
They met up with Khun Sa finally on December 26, 1985.
Looking robust and healthy and not so much older since he was last seen, General Khun Sa was amicable and treated them warmly during the six days they were at his base.
So, who is the legendary Khun Sa?
The following is the scoop on Khun Sa (opium King) that ran for 5 days in New Straits Times in 1986.
Island of Splendor: Phuket
First published in Bangkok Post 1985; New Straits Times Mar 6 1986
The sun-baked southern island of Phuket, washed by the Andaman Sea, has been well-known for more tan 350 years since the days of Ayuthaya. Back in those days, it was not the miles and miles of sunny beaches, the blue sky, the swaying tropical palms or the exotic maidens that attracted visitors to its shores. The draw was more mercantile than aesthetic.
The Dutch, the French and the English already knew of the island’s rich tin deposits and coveted the valuable ore. Even the Burmese launched an attack but were repulsed by the islanders. This episode is commemorated by a memorial to the two Siamese heroines, Tho Tepchatri and Tho Sisomporn, whose statues outside the town greet all visitors to the island.
In the early days the island was known as Talang. Locally it was called Thongkha or Thoongkha, after a species of grass. Later it became known as Phuket from the Malay word ‘bukit’, meaning hill, a possible consequence of the fact that there are many Thais of Malay descent in the south.
However, there was not much of a town in those times, not until the annexation of Penang island by Captain Francis Light of the East India Company for the British crown in 1786.
The subsequent development and growth of Penang into a free port under the British saw the rise of modern Phuket. Many Hokkien Chinese from Penang came to settle in Phuket and made their fortune from tin.
Penang then was the emporium for European goods. Two steam ships, the Matang and the Tangah plied between Penang and Phuket every week carrying goods and passengers between the two islands. Untill recent years the tin ore from Phuket was sent to the Eastern Smelting Company in Penang for smelting.
Mr.Peh, the 70-year-old owner of the British-style On On Hotel in Phuket recalled “In the old days everything came from Penang, oranges, apples, machinery, cars, and even ice.
“I was sole agent for those Italian marble tables you sometimes see in the local coffee shops.
they cost only 500 baht apiece in pre-war days. I still have about 10 of them. People have offered me many thousand baht for one but I refused to sell them. They are antiques.”
He added that building materials and even the builders’ teams came from Penang to construct the houses and the mansions of the rich. The On On Hotel was built by his father about 60 years ago as a family mansion with many guest rooms to house business friends from Penang.
Thus it has come about that today the old town of Phuket with it’s Sino-Portuguese architecture and British-style mansions looks similar to Penang. Phuket has also the distinction of being probably the only town in Thailand with a good drainage system.
As for the people, when it was time for schooling, they went to Penang. When it was time to get married, it was again to Penang that they would go to get a young Nonya bride.
Such was the close link that once existed between the two islands, that the first Thai words that the people of Penang learnt were “Pai nai, pai Khongkha (Khongkha being the Penang pronunciation of Thongkha).
Today things have changed. Penang is no longer a free port and tin prices have hit rock bottom. Ironically due to modern red tape on both sides of the border, people are neither so free nor goods so easy to move from the one island to he other.
“When Penang was a free port, you could get everything from all over the world at cheap prices,” said Murusamy, an Indian Chettiar, now a cloth merchant in Phuket.”I used to go to Penang once a month to order my textile goods, but not anymore. The textile shops in Penang are now bankrupt. Now I only go to Penang once a year during Taipusam to visit friends and relatives.
“And the flow of business has reversed. Phuket is now sending textiles from the Bangkok factories to Penang.”
Phuket today is the most delightful place in the kingdom. Apart from it’s famous beaches and scenic offshore islands, the town and the people have a unique character of their own. It is one of the most cleanest and most peaceful places of the country. The people are charming and friendly and the women among the fairest in the land.
The people of Phuket, descendants of Hokkien, Malay and Siamese ancestors through centuries of assimilation and intermarriage, proudly identify themselves as “Luk BaBa” for the men and “Nyonya” for the women in tribute to their unique dual heritage.
While loitering around the town, enchanted by it’s unhurried and peaceful pace, I ventured into a shop selling crafts and antiques and immediately I was caught up in many hours of conversation with the shop keepers.The proprietor, Woravuth Lim, who is an artist and his charming wife insisted that i join the family for dinner.
On another occasion when I happened to be in the Muslim village on Had Karim (Karim beach), fascinated by the coconut-picking monkeys, I was befriended by old grandma, Riya Noongchit, 66, who later invited me to her house for a drink of fresh coconut.
Before I left grandma Riya pressed on me a passport photograph of herself as a memento. This handsome old grandmother’s face shines with all the serenity of this enchanting, hilly but richly endowed island.