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 Opium Convoys

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Lo Hsing-Han, Khun Sa and the beginning of the war on drugs in Burma.

The Opium Convoys

The first program in the series 'The Heroin Wars' picks up the story in the 1960s when the Burmese Army seized power in a coup sweeping aside the constitution and Parliament. The Shans, who had only recently joined the Burmese Union, began their war of independence. Opium was the Shan farmers' only source of ready money and the guerillas began to take 10% of the crop as a tax and transported it in convoys to Thailand to buy guns. And so a deadly alliance was born.

In the 1970s, as part of Richard Nixon's War on Drugs, the US joined in an all-out attack on the convoys and, using the Thai police, sent an invitation to Lo Hsing-Han, the first 'King of Opium', to negotiate an end to the opium trade, only to have him arrested and thereby ensure that the opium trade would continue unabated under the second 'King of Opium', Khun Sa.

'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: the Journal of Academic Media Librarianship

'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


Gold CINDY, International Broadcast Documentary


Main credits

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

Other credits

Camera, Chris Menges; editor, Terry Twigg ... [et al.].

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
U.S. Foreign Policy

Distributor subjects

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


Lo Hsing-Han, Khun Sa, Burma, Shan, ; heroin,; narcotics, war on drugs, Thailand, Richard Nixon, Dr. Peter Bourne; "The Opium Convoys"; Bullfrog Films

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