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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Blood & drugs - a guide to the Bamboo Union

Blood & drugs - a guide to the Bamboo Union

Taiwan's Bamboo Union gang has grown from a Taiwan street gang for sons of KMT soldiers

and officials into an international criminal organization noted for drug trafficking

and murder.

"The Bamboo Union was formed by KMT kids in the 1950s wanting to protect themselves

from threats by native Taiwanese kids," Taiwanese gang specialist Yang Ching

Hai explained. "The first members lived on Bamboo Forest Road in Jung Ho City,

Taipei County and that's how the gang got its name."

By the early 1960s, the aspirations of the Bamboo Union membership shifted from street-fighting

to profiteering.

"The Bamboo Union started moving into Taiwan's illegal gambling business, and

soon took total control of it," Yang said.

By the late 1970s, Chiang Hsiao-wu, son of Taiwan's then-president Chiang Chien-kuo,

effectively deputized the Bamboo Union and another pro-KMT Taiwanese gang as defacto

instruments of foreign policy.

"[Chiang Hsiao-wu] personally sanctioned the Bamboo [Union] Gang and the Iron

Blood Patriots as paramilitary branches of the secret police, to carry out missions

overseas that might embarrass the regime if it's own agents were caught," writes

Sterling Seagrave in Lords of the Rim.

In return, both gangs were offered a share of the lucrative heroin trade funneled

into the world market by KMT elements in Thailand's Golden Triangle region.

"Thanks to President Chiang's family, the Bamboo [Union] Gang soon had gunmen

and heroin brokers based in the United States and wherever else adequate cover was

provided by a community of Overseas Chinese," Seagrave writes.

Yang estimates the Bamboo Union has a global membership of "around 100,000",

and says that the arrest of its "spiritual leader" Chen Chi-li would have

little impact on its operations.

"This is a very stable organization run by extremely disciplined people,"

Yang said. "It won't fall apart just because Chen Chi-li's in jail for a while."

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