Conflict & Justice

Lo Hsing Han, Myanmar's 'Godfather of Heroin,' dies aged 80

Lo Hsing Han, an Asian drug kingpin dubbed the "Godfather of Heroin" by the US government and accused of helping to prop up Myanmar's brutal former junta with his business dealings, died over the weekend.

He was 80, the Associated Press reported, adding that a long line of senior government officials and business leaders were among those paying their final respects at his family home in Yangon (Rangoon).

Myanmar's agriculture minister, Myint Hlaing, wrote in a message of condolence printed in state-run newspapers:

"Our sorrow is as great as that of the bereaved family and we wish him peace."

Lo Hsing Han was a major heroin trafficker in the 1970s, when the so-called "Golden Triangle" of Myanmar (then Burma) and its neighbors became the epicenter of world heroin production.

He avoided a death sentence in his early career, having been arrested by police in northern Thailand in 1973 and handed over to Myanmar for punishment.

However, his death sentence for treason was commuted to life imprisonment, and then in 1980 he was released as part of a general amnesty.

He quickly reinvented himself as a tycoon at the head of one of Myanmar's largest firms.

According to the Daily Mail — which cites Bertil Lintner, author of "The Golden Triangle Opium Trade" — Lo Hsing Han "was given permission to engage in the trafficking of opium and heroin in exchange for heading a local militia set up by then-dictator Ne Win in the 1960s to help fight local communists in the region of Kokang."

Owing to the protection of one of the country's best-armed militias, he quickly became one of the region's most powerful drug kingpins.

He and business partner and son, Steven Law, were targeted by the US Treasury with sanctions from 2008, labeled "two key financial operatives of the Burmese regime" for their close business ties to the military junta.

In an obituary in state media, the family said Lo Hsing Han died late on Saturday night and his funeral would take place in Yangon on July 17.