Bullion in Every Pot

Paula Bronstein/Liaison for TIME.

Japanese soldiers are said to have stashed 2,500 tons of gold in Lijia Cave.

With his black stetson and colt .45 automatic, police officer Wanlop Siridon looks like a lawman out of the Wild West—Thailand's Wild West. The dense forests of the country's western border with Burma are a haven for smugglers, dope dealers and ethnic rebels. Wanlop, though, isn't hunting outlaws. He's part of a posse led by Senator Chaowarin Latthasaksiri that is tracking treasure: a legendary load of loot supposedly stashed by the Japanese Imperial Army at the end of World War II. On April 12, the group claimed to have found the trove, reputed to include 2,500 tons of gold in two...

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