In Search of the Asian Drug Cartel That Survived the CIA


By Patrick Winn

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$41.00 CAD

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The gripping true story of an indigenous people running the world’s mightiest narco-state—and America’s struggle to thwart them. 
In Asia’s narcotics-producing heartland, the Wa reign supreme. They dominate the Golden Triangle, a mountainous stretch of Burma between Thailand and China. Their 30,000-strong army, wielding missiles and attack drones, makes Mexican cartels look like street gangs.
Wa moguls are unrivaled in the region’s $60 billion meth trade and infamous for mass-producing pink, vanilla-scented speed pills. Drugs finance Wa State, a bona fide nation with its own laws, anthems, schools, and electricity grid. Though revered by their people, Wa leaders are scorned by US policymakers as vicious “kingpins” who “poison our society for profit.”
In Narcotopia, award-winning journalist Patrick Winn uncovers the truth behind Asia’s top drug-trafficking organization, as told by a Wa commander turned DEA informant. This gripping narrative shreds drug war myths and leads to a chilling revelation: the Wa syndicate’s origins are smudged with CIA fingerprints.
This is a saga of native people tapping the power of narcotics to create a nation where there was none before — and covert US intelligence operations gone wrong.
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  • "Those who fail to read this forsake their chance to know the truth."
    Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah
  • "An outstanding book, packed with history, humor, and adventure. Patrick Winn is the perfect guide to these highland outlaws and their incredible, defiant narco-state. This is the best reportage to come out of Southeast Asia in years."
    Graeme Wood, author of The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State
  • "A riveting portrait of a little-known and often vilified people, a harrowing tale of Asia's epic, multi-billion dollar, drugs trade, and a unique perspective on our world today."
    Thant Myint-U, author of The Hidden History of Burma
  • “Patrick has made a riveting read out of the largely overlooked - but critically important - Wa State... The history behind it, the masterminds pulling the strings, and the many CIA operations against them. It’s a fascinating and incredibly well-researched dive into Asia’s underworld and some of the greatest narcotics traffickers in the region. And above all, it’s beautifully crafted storytelling.”
    Isobel Yeung, VICE
  • "Unputdownable... an authentic page-turner, revealing why the global drug problem remains unsolved."
    Khuensai Jaiyen, ex-secretary to the drug lord Khun Sa
  • “Part gangster saga, part espionage thriller, and part liberation epic, Winn’s narrative alternates between rollicking adventure and harrowing violence conveyed in vivid, muscular prose.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “A penetrating look at the failure of the war on drugs at the drug trade’s ground zero… A valuable contribution to the literature on the international drug trade and its seemingly limitless power.”
    Kirkus Reviews
  • Narcotopia offers a rich analysis of narco-states.”
    The Economist
  • “The DEA aspires to dismantle the Wa State, and Americans have rarely trodden upon its soil, but Winn decided to give it a go. What he discovered was a long history of U.S. meddling that amounts to one of the foolhardiest chapters in the war on drugs—a conflict hardly wanting for foolhardiness.”

On Sale
Jan 30, 2024
Page Count
384 pages

Patrick Winn

About the Author

Patrick Winn is an award-winning investigative journalist who covers rebellion and black markets in Southeast Asia. He enters the worlds of guerrillas and vigilantes to mine stories that might otherwise go ignored. Winn has received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award (also known as the ‘poor man’s Pulitzer’) and a National Press Club award. He’s also a three-time winner of Amnesty International’s Human Rights Press Awards among other prizes.  

Learn more about this author