Did Taiwan kill the Shan resistance leader for China?

Sae Hark — One of the biggest mysteries in the history of the Shan resistance was who had assassinated the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA)’s most colorful military leader Col Sam Möng (Zarm Mong) in 1978 and why.

In early 1978, he, Lt-Col Pan Aung and a staff officer, Mao Khio, had secretly visited the Shanland United Army (SUA) headquarters in Ban Hintaek, Chiangrai province. They were never see again since, dead or alive.

Later, other SSA leaders working in Thailand were also gunned down by assassins. They included:
Sao Hso Zeung
Sao Hseng Harn
Sao Boon Tai
Sao Zam Lake
Sao Zamka

To the SSA and many others, there was no question who was the main culprit. All fingers pointed to the SUA and its leader Khun Sa. But why did he do it? “Because it was the pre-condition for his release from prison,” was the answer. But no one was able to present evidence to back up their accusation.

Khun Sa, chief of Loimaw Homeguard, was imprisoned in Mandalay, 1969-74. He was released a year after his chief of staff, Zhang Suquan aka Falang “Thunder”, staged a daring operation of kidnapping 2 Russian doctors working in Taunggyi.

Khun Sa, who later became commander-in-chief of the Mong Tai Army (MTA), the merger between the SUA and the Shan United Revolutionary Army (SURA), at first tried to shift responsibility by saying, “Yes, Sam Möng came to Hintaek (now renamed Therd Tai). But why isn’t anyone asking who brought them there?”

He later withdrew this stand and told the Shan monks who visited him at his residence in Homong, “I promise I’ll disclose everything that had happened when freedom comes.”

In the end, it wasn’t him but Falang who made the disclosure, according to a former MTA leader who had surrendered together with him in 1996. “Falang told us in 1995 that he and Lieng Zeun (Liang Zhongying) had re-enlisted in the Kuomintang after Khun Sa was thrown in jail by the Burmese,” he recounted. “It was during the Cold War and without the KMT’s support, they feared the SUA wouldn’t have survived. As a result, they were obliged to carry out instructions from Taiwan.”

One of them was the assassination of SSA leaders, which came about after several members of Taiwan’s intelligence network in China were taken into custody and executed by Chinese authorities. “They were said to have received information written in Chinese from the SSA that had seized a number of documents from a truck at a location between Tangyan and Lashio,” Falang was quoted as saying.

A former senior SSA officer concurred. “It was Sao Sai Awng, an officer from the 1st Brigade of Sao Hso Noom that had made the seizure,” he said. “Nobody read Chinese, so we turned them over to the CPB (Communist Party of China) that in turn turned them over to the Chinese.”

(The names of the sources have been withheld to avert possible inconvenience to them.)

Khun Sa died in Rangoon in 2007 at the age of 73. His former sidekick Falang followed him 4 years later after a brief visit to his homeland Manchuria. He was 84.


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