Yun Sun is an East Asia Fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Stimson Center, a research group in the U.S. capital. She spoke with VOA’s Bill Ide about the rebel leader who is at the heart of an armed insurgency on the Myanmar-China border.
Ide: Who is Peng Jiasheng?
Sun: Peng Jiasheng was the leader of the Kokang minority, the Kokang autonomous region before 2009. His family moved from Sichuan Province in China to Kokang a little bit more than 100 years ago. So, his family was originally from China and has been living in Kokang for a very long time. During the Cultural Revolution [in China], during the Burmese Communist Party era, Peng Jiasheng received the support and he fought for the Burmese Communist Party and when the Burmese Communist Party disintegrated in the early 1990s, he claimed to be the leader of the Kokang region and later negotiated a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese military government that made him the chairman of the Kokang autonomous region.
Ide: Kokang is located in the Golden Triangle, what is Peng Jiasheng’s connection to the drug trade?
Sun: That part of the history is very difficult to verify because different parties have different stories. The Burmese authorities claim that they went into Kokang to clear the drug business under Peng Jiasheng. And Peng Jiasheng’s version of the story was that this was an excuse used by the Burmese military government to drag him out of power. So it is very difficult to verify either of the stories that we hear. But, I have to say that in that area, it has been quite well known that the previous authorities of Kokang were not that clean. So that means they were involved in not only involved in the drug business, but also human trafficking, arms trafficking, and also the casino business in the Kokang region.
Ide: Where has Peng Jiasheng been since 2009?
Sun: Well, according to Peng Jiasheng himself and according to the interviews that he gave to Chinese media, including the Global Times, in the past five years from August of 2009 when he was driven out of power to the middle of 2014, he was traveling and he was living in different parts of China and Southeast Asia. So, he acknowledged that he spent some time in China, some time in Thailand and he was also going among countries. So whether he spent the past five years in China is a myth that we cannot verify, but we do know he was in various parts of that region.