Distributor:  Bullfrog Films
Length:  50 minutes
Date:  1996
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; Burmese
Grade level: College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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The Kings of Opium

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In the 1990s, the kings of opium in Burma switch sides in the narcotics carousel.

The Kings of Opium

The final program in the series 'The Heroin Wars' returns to the Shans' war for independence, led by Khun Sa, the second 'King of Opium'. In 1993 the Shan People's Representative Committee declared itself no longer part of the union of Burma and the civil war moved to a new plane of brutality that shocked the world. Lo Hsing-Han meanwhile joined the government forces and eventually brings Khun Sa to his knees, regaining control once again over the narcotics trade, but this time for the military dictatorship.

Today both men are rich and powerful, and the amount of opium produced in Shan State has increased tenfold, flooding Europe and the United States with cheap heroin. In spite of massive US aid, no one has been brave enough to break the vicious circle that is the international drugs trade. The narcotics carousel will continue to turn, to the immense profit of everyone on board and to the intense suffering of the addicts and the Shan people.

'Proving, again, that truth is far more intriguing than fiction, The Heroin Wars is documentary film making at its finest, a superb and skillfully told story which ultimately reveals that as long as there are supplies, and drug addicts, there will always be a drug trade. Highly recommended for purchase.' Gerald A. Notaro, University Librarian, University of South Florida MC Journal

'Essential viewing for anyone interested in the history of the narcotics trade and the war on drugs; highly recommended for academic libraries and world history collections.' Library Journal


Bronze Apple, National Educational Media Competition


Main credits

Cowell, Adrian (cmm)
Cowell, Adrian (Director)
Kirk, Michael (Producer)

Other credits

Camera, Ned Johnston; editor, Terry Twigg.

Distributor credits

Adrian Cowell with WGBH/Frontline

Adrian Cowell with WGBH/Frontline

Docuseek2 subjects

Alcohol, Drugs and Substance Abuse
20th Century
Asian History
Human Rights
International Relations and Geopolitics
Politics and Political Science
Criminal Justice, Law and Legal Studies

Distributor subjects

Asian Studies
Developing World
Hong Kong
Human Rights
International Studies
Political Science
Social Justice


Shan, Burma; heroin, narcotics, Lo Hsing-Han, Khun Sa; "The Kings of Opium"; Bullfrog Films

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