Lo Hsing Han: Businessman and criminal known as 'The Godfather of Heroin'

Aye Aye Win

Lo Hsing Han, described as the "Godfather of Heroin" by the US government and hit with financial sanctions for allegedly helping prop up Myanmar's junta through illegal business dealings died on 6 July at the age of 80. His body lay in a glass coffin in the family home for a private ceremony yesterday as a long line of relatives, senior government officials and business leaders turning out to pay their final respects.

For decades, Lo Hsing Han was considered one of the world's biggest traffickers of heroin. In the 1990s, he and his son Stephen Law founded the conglomerate Asia World, allegedly as a front for their ongoing dealings in the drug trade, according to Bertil Lintner, author of The Golden Triangle Opium Trade: An Overview. They quickly became two of Myanmar's most powerful business tycoons, winning contracts from the junta to run ports, build highways and oversee airport operations. The US Treasury Department of Treasury put father and son on their financial sanctions list in 2008.

Lo Hsing Han first became involved in the drug trade in the 1960s. In exchange for heading a local militia set up by the then-dictator Ne Win to fight communists in the region of Kokang, he was granted the right to traffic opium and heroin. Thai police arrested him in northern Thailand in 1973 and handed him over to the Burmese government. His initial death sentence was commuted to life in prison, not for drug trafficking but treason, a charge which stemmed from a brief stint with the insurgent Shan State Army. He was released in 1980 as part of a general amnesty.

Lo Hsing Han, businessman and criminal: born Burma c.1935; married (four sons, four daughters); died Myanmar 6 July 2013.

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