More skeletons in the KMT closet

Just when I think I have a fairly good idea about what the Chinese Nationalist Party, aka Kuomintang (KMT) has been up to over the years, I read the following text in a BBC obituary of Burmese warlord, gangster, opium smuggler and “prince of death” Khun Su.

Born in 1933 to a Chinese father and a mother from Burma’s Shan ethnic group, Khun Su’s given name was Chan Chi-fu.

Growing up in the Burmese countryside, he had little education and came of age fighting Chinese nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) soldiers, who had been forced out of China by the Communists.

The KMT rapidly took over and expanded the opium trade in the region, but Chan Chi-fu and his gang gradually began to exert their influence during the 1960s.

Allied with the Burmese government, they are thought to have fought against both the KMT and the Shan nationalists in exchange for being allowed to continue trading opium.

All of us here know that the KMT as an organization, following their defeat by the CCP in the Chinese civil war, fled to Taiwan where they ruled a one-party police state for decades, and that many of them had been engaged in warlordism and banditry on the Chinese mainland before and during the civil war (this corruption was one factor in their defeat,) but I do not recall reading before about KMT members who fled to and engaged in banditry in SE Asia in large numbers. I do, however, find it a little amusing that Khun Su would, with his history of fighting the KMT, “play host to journalists and Western tourists, treating them to Taiwanese pop music.” After fighting KMT bandits in Burma, mightn’t be be a little bit sour towards Taiwan?

Anyway,  do any readers have any suggestions for sources to look at on similar KMT banditry/criminal activity in SE Asia, following their flight to Taiwan?

8 thoughts on “More skeletons in the KMT closet”

  1. I’m going to go ahead and admit total ignorance on this question. Nothing I’ve read says anything except that the KMT retreated to Taiwan, and you always get the impression that the whole KMT went with them.

    Silly me.

  2. Andrew McCoy a former CIA agent has written a book with the title “The politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia” .It is said that it is still one of the best books about drug trade in Southeast Asia, and about the involvement of the US government.

    There is some explanation of the activities of KMT emigrants who were involved in drug trade in Southeast Asia in the 1950ies and 60ies and received along side with other ethnic warlords of these regions supports from the CIA as a part of Anti-communism activities.

    I heard that there are at least two (one Japanese and another Chinese Japanese anthropologist) who are studying these Chinese group who still reside in the mountainous regions of Continental Southeast Asia (from Thai to Burma borders) who are often referred as “Yunnan Ho”.

  3. Thanks Tomojiro. I’ll have to add that book to my list of ones to get to someday- although at this rate it may be a while…

  4. Sorry, the authors name was Alfred W. McCoy. Maybe you have also find it out, there is actually a Wikipedia entry about this book.

  5. A Japanese blog (which I regularly read) by Japanese economist Kai Kajitani specializing in China has also reported about the death of Khun Su.

    The blog also introduces two books written by a Japanese journalist Hideyuki Takano who has actually lived in the villages under the rule of Khun Su.

    「アヘン王国潜入記」「ミャンマーの柳生一族」both available from Shueisha bunko.

    I haven’t read those books, but it could be interesting.

  6. Pingback: The KMT in Burma

Comments are closed.