Female warlord who had CIA links and opium routes
MUSE, Myanmar — She was born to royalty in British colonial Burma, but rejected that life to become a cross-dressing warlord whose CIA-supplied army established opium trade routes across the Golden Triangle. By the time of her death last week at 90, she had led hundreds of men, endured prison and torture, generated gossip for her relationship with a film actress and, finally, helped forge a truce between ethnic rebels and the government.
Olive Yang grew up as one of 11 children in an ethnic Chinese family of hereditary rulers of what was then the semiautonomous Shan state of Kokang. According to relatives, she wore boys’ clothes, refused to bind her feet and frequently fell in love with her brothers’ romantic interests.
Concerned about their unconventional daughter, her parents arranged for her to marry a younger cousin. Shortly after she became pregnant, archives show, she left her husband to pursue a life among opium-trafficking bandits.
Her son, Duan Jipu — named for the U.S. jeeps Yang had seen in the Chinese city of Kunming during World War II — was raised by other family members.
Yang’s pursuit of a career as a