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...And He May Kiss Smack Goodbye


Business Week International Spotlight On Burma

...AND HE MAY KISS SMACK GOODBYE

Khun Sa is under no illusions that Shan independence can make any headway without a military victory over Rangoon's troops. Failing that, he hasn't a prayer of recognition by the Thai government in Bangkok.

Meanwhile, he is currying favor with the pragmatic Thais by trading with them. Thai loggers do a brisk business in the Shan territory, which is laced with roads bulldozed by the loggers. Shan's world-famous ruby mines are a magnet for dealers from all over Asia. And of course, there is the smack, which travels into Thailand on pack mules.

Now, Khun Sa believes he has found a substitute that can help take the place of the poppies as a cash crop: shiitake mushrooms. The first thing one encounters on entering the 10 km-long mountain valley where Homong, Khun Sa's lair, lies is a shiitake mushroom farm. These pricey fungi are cultivated in the bark of the mai kaw tree, abundant in Shan. Under soccer-field-size plastic tents, rows of sections of the tree are stood on end in racks for four months after being plugged with a spore.

Three additional shiitake farms are planned. That will increase yearly production to 250,000 kilos--at $50 a kilo--catering to voracious Asian demand, particularly from hotels in Thailand.EDITED BY JOHN E. PLUENNEKE By Ken Stier in Homong, Shan, Burma


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