A Funeral for ‘the Godfather of Heroin’

A procession of cars drives to the cemetery for Lo Hsing Han’s funeral. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON—Myint Aung is building a tombstone for Lo Hsing Han, a notorious Burmese crony—dubbed the “godfather of heroin” by the US government—who died earlier this month after decades as a global drug trafficker.

On the day of the funeral on Wednesday, at about 2 pm, Myint Aung and other laborers at a cemetery in Rangoon are busy at work on the tombstone after the ethnic Kokang drug kingpin has been laid to rest in his grave.

“The only thing I knew about him was that he was a rich man from Asia World,” Myint Aung says, referring to a conglomerate founded by Lo Hsing Han’s son, allegedly as a front for their drug trade business. The conglomerate gave 3,000 kyats (US$3) to the dozen or so workers hired to prepare the tombstone, Myint Aung adds.

Lo Hsing Han died of heart failure at his home in Rangoon on July 6, and thousands of people attended his traditional Chinese funeral on Wednesday.

Before driving to the cemetery, dozens of relatives in white clothes gathered at his home, where they walked around his coffin to pray and pay their last respects.

Friends of the family were allowed inside the large Rangoon home but reporters were barred, taking photos when they could along the road and at the cemetery.

One video reporter was grabbed by security when he attempted to film inside the house, while police officers were deployed along the street.

Lo Hsing Han’s wife, Zhang Pengshin, was absent at the funeral, reportedly due to an illness. Many of the drug king’s children refused to speak with reporters.

Lo Hsing Han was born on Sept. 25, 1935 in Kokang region of Burma’s Shan State, an area populated by a Han Chinese ethnic group known as the Kokang.

He became the leader of Kokang home-guard militia in 1962, according to the Shan Herald Agency for News, and later fought against the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). He and his family had a close relationship with Burma’s former military junta.

Hao Xao Chan, a lawmaker from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), attended the funeral.

“He was my teacher,” said the Upper House lawmaker. “I was very sad for his death. I took one day off from Parliament to come here because I wanted to show my condolences.”

A 50-year-old man from Lashio Township, Shan State, said, “About 300 members of our cultural organization from Lashio came here. We wanted the family to know we’re mourning.”

A woman from China’s Yunnan Province also attended. “He had a good mind and was rich, but he was No. 4 on the world’s ‘most wanted’ list,” she said.

Lo Hsing Han amassed a fortune in the early 1970s during the Burmese military regime as a leading figure in Burma’s notoriously rampant drug trade. His narcotics empire included lucrative opium production in Kokang.

He was arrested by Thai authorities and extradited to Burma after crossing into northern Thailand in 1973, during a period in which he went underground and teamed up with the Shan State Army, an ethnic Shan rebel group. He was later freed, in 1980, in a general amnesty.

Following his release, Lo Hsing Han returned to Lashio, where he built up a new militia force under a government-backed paramilitary force.

He and his son Steven Law were put on the US sanctions lists in February 2008, along with their companies Asia World, Asia World Port Management, Asia World Industries Ltd and Asia World Light Ltd.

For decades, Lo Hsing Han was considered one of the world’s biggest traffickers of heroin and was slapped with financial sanctions for allegedly helping prop up Burma’s brutal former military junta through illegal business dealings.

He is survived by a wife, four sons, four daughters and 16 grandchildren.

7 Responses to A Funeral for ‘the Godfather of Heroin’

  1. These Chinese or half-Chinese thugs, crooks and drug war-lords are the ones that really rule Burma and look how thousands of people gave him a hero’s funeral. Even Ne Win who actually made him rich, didn’t get such a pompous funeral. What a strange country!
    Kalar = bad, evil, ugly but Tayoke = good, noble, handsome. Such simple ethnic profiling.

    • A strange country alright. Strange in the sense of being clueless what to value. I wonder who are those that attended his funeral. Probably people wanting favor from his clan.

  2. If there is a more evil substance than heroin, I cannot think of what it is. Perhaps there are even more addictive substances (e.g. crack, methamphetamines and alcohol to name some possibilities), but I doubt those substances have the tragic consequences that heroin does.

  3. In the Burmese saying, ‘if you hand eaten a morsel of too, you’re indebted for that kindness’. How is it the not many from the military are absent? I guess they observers the other saying, ‘twenty-five for the minister’s wife funeral, five for the minister’s’. The times, they must be changing. They all must be glad that the drug community in Asia does not follow the code like the Mafia. Who’ll be the next Kokang Don?

  4. Dreams of King Pasenadi of Kosala

    No. 15. “I saw a village crow, a vile creature with all the ten vices,* attended by an entourage of Mallard ducks, beautiful birds with feathers of golden sheen.” “In the reign of weakling rulers there will be some who know nothing about governing. They will be fools and cowards who understand neither battle nor the art of leadership. Fearing that they may be deposed in a revolt or revolution, they will elevate even their servants, bath-attendants, barbers, and the like [that is, loyal but shockingly unqualified people] to positions of power. These rulers will ignore the real administrators. Cut off from favor and unable to support themselves, the real administrators will be reduced to kissing up like sycophants to the upstart rulers, as when the crow had regal Mallard ducks for a retinue. ”

  5. Lo Hsing han is the Burma national hero after G-aung san to prevent from the communist ruling in Burma. The root cause of Lo Hsing han’s rising in Burma is due to Bama military government’s support, particularly than shwe and khin nyunt who also suggested and advised Lo Hsing han for cultivation of opium for the world most poorest country, Burma in the aspect of opium profit sharing each others.
    Bama (claimed brown complexion by themselves) is descended from India, kalar ( darker complexion) but Kalar lay is not the derogatory meaning except andamanonge. Chinese descended Burmese ethnics are fair complexion generally so they are also so called Tayyoke as it is not easy to be differentiated among them (pure Chinese and ethnic Chinese).

    All ethnics and minority in Burma ( Kalar and Tayoke ) are not strange except U nu, Ne win, than shwe and Khin Nyunt for the rising of Lo Hsing han. Kalar lay were helping Burma for shit or wast collectors for Rangoon by British colony. later, some kalars in Burma were and are dumped by British colony, Ne win and than shwe.

    Chinese nationalist army conquered Japanese occupation for Burma freedom ( later Burma independence) in crucial battle in Myitkyina, requested by allied force-UK and US. Later , Chinese nationalist army was defeated by Chinese communist army (PLA) from the financially and economically dumping by US upon requested. Allied force finally had to help Chinese nationalist army when Korea war broke out after world war 2 in the fear of cruel Chinese communist spread or influence by killer Chairman Moa ( killed 70 millions of own Chinese in history).
    From the rapid and significant success of Chinese communist ruling in China, orchestrated by Chinese paramount leader Tang shui pang, Burma should be ruled by Burmese communist instead of U nu, ne win and than shwe. Then, Lo Hsing han can not be Burma national hero, saver from Burmese communist ruling in Burma.

  6. basically nothing changes in Burma, the cronies are still the major players, only difference is can the foreigners enter the market equally

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