How Myanmar’s post-coup economy fuels war and profits the military

Since the 2021 coup, Myanmar’s military elite and those loyal to them have gained unbridled control of lucrative industries ranging from construction to telecommunications to natural resource extraction. The resulting lack of accountability and transparency has launched an ongoing debate about the role of international partners in financing the regime, to which Myanmar Now’s coverage has contributed extensively.

In the first article, Myanmar Now explores how junta-affiliated companies—particularly those owned by the adult children of top generals—are “the biggest winners” in the post-coup economy, monopolising lucrative contracts and tenders nationwide, ensuring the military maintains an “oversized role” in business.

Second, Myanmar Now exposes how an Australian-led mining company has continued exploratory activities in conflict-torn but gold-rich eastern Shan State amid both the withdrawal of its primary investor and an expansion of extractive activities by military-linked ventures in the region. The article outlines Australia’s historic role in shaping the industry and raises questions about how foreign investments which may be legal are not necessarily ethical.

Norwegian telecoms giant Telenor’s exit from Myanmar in 2022 came under fire for potentially exposing the data of some 18 million users to the junta in its sale of its network to entities including the military-linked Shwe Byain Phyu company. Myanmar Now’s third article profiles Shwe Byain Phyu’s founder, Thein Win Zaw, “a man with a long and lucrative business relationship with the military,” through the examination and extensive documentation of his assets, financial records, associates, and legal controversies, forming one of the most comprehensive portraits of the man to date.

As country burns, it’s back to business as usual for Myanmar’s military elite

The families of top generals have wasted no time enriching themselves, even as poverty deepens for most

Published on 04 September 2022

By Aung Naing

Companies owned by the adult children of two of Myanmar’s top generals have been granted numerous government tenders since last year’s military coup, according to documents seen by Myanmar Now.

In a sign that the regime that is now waging war on the country’s civilian population intends to continue the military’s long-standing practice of profiting from its rule, the documents show that companies linked to Lt-Gen Aung Lin Dwe and Lt-Gen Moe Myint Tun—both members of the junta that seized power in February 2021—have been awarded a number of lucrative contracts over the past year

According to documents and information received from an inside source, businesses run by members of Aung Lin Dwe’s family have been granted tenders to run several construction projects, including in the junta’s administrative capital Naypyitaw, while companies with ties to Moe Myint Tun have been awarded at least nine projects—among them, one for repairing cables inside the Naypyitaw Union Territory.

“Those two are the biggest ones. Their companies won many tenders at the price of their own choosing,” said the source, who did not want to be named.

Records of the ministries’ announcements regarding tender winners, including the two generals’ family businesses

‘Easy money’

According to the records of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, Moe Myint Tun’s three adult children—Moe Htet Htet Tun, Khaing Moe Myint, and Yadanar Moe Myint—serve as directors of three companies that were registered at the same Naypyitaw address in the months leading up to the overthrow of Myanmar’s elected civilian government.

Between them, these three companies—Yadanar Moe Htet Aung, Phyo Pyae Pyae, and Pin Gangaw—won multiple tenders from two ministries between October of last year and March of this year, documents received by Myanmar Now showed.

The Ministry of Border Affairs awarded one contract during this period for a project in the Pa-O region, with three more granted for the current fiscal year. The Department of Prisons, which is under the Ministry of Home Affairs, awarded another three to the companies in the second half of last year.

According to Myanmar Now’s source, two army captains have been assigned the task of submitting tenders for the companies belonging to Moe Myat Tun’s children.

“It’s easy money for them. They aren’t doing projects that are difficult to carry out, like paving roads. They don’t have a big team working for them. It’s just the two army captains handling all the tender procedures,” said the source.

While monetary figures were not available for any of these projects, another one that was awarded for a cable-repair project in Naypyitaw’s Lewe Township was reportedly worth 500m kyat ($238,000).

At 54 years old, Moe Myint Tun is one of the youngest high-ranking generals in Myanmar’s armed forces. A former army chief of staff and head of the military’s Naypyitaw Regional Command, he is known to be close to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing. 

He currently serves as chair of the regime’s Investment Commission and sits on the board of directors at Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), a military conglomerate.

Lt-Gen Moe Myint Tun (first from right) is seen together with junta chief Min Aung Hlaing during a visit to Pyin Oo Lwin in December 2021 (Military-owned media)

Eliminating rivals

Aung Lin Dwe, the secretary of the State Administration Council, as Myanmar’s junta calls itself, is a former judge advocate general who has been accused of ordering soldiers to destroy digital evidence of atrocities committed during the military’s “clearance operations” against the Rohingya in Rakhine State. He has also served as an MEHL director.

Lt-Gen Aung Lin Dwe (left) is seen with the chief minister of Mizoram State, India, in October 2019 (Zoramthanga / Twitter)

His three children—Shwe Yi Phoo Aung, Hlaing Bwar Aung, and Phyo Arkar Aung—have also profited from their father’s position. Between them, they own the Aung Myint Moh Lin and Mingalar Aung Myay construction companies and the Shwe Yee Phyo Pyae production company. All three have been blacklisted by the civilian National Unity Government (NUG), which has urged the public to boycott the companies.

According to Myanmar Now’s source, Aung Myint Moh Lin and Mingalar Aung Myay “take most of the road construction projects” in Naypyitaw. Mingalar Aung Myay has also been awarded many other big-budget projects by the military and the home affairs and border affairs ministries.

In addition to their construction companies, the family also owns a cement factory located on a four-acre plot of land near Naypyitaw, the source said.

The compound of a concrete factory in Naypyitaw owned by the family of Lt-Gen Aung Lin Dwe (Myanmar Now)

As junta-appointed officials continue to scrutinise more than 200 companies that were awarded major contracts in Naypyitaw before the coup, Aung Lin Dwe’s children stand to win an even bigger share of the pie. 

New bidding rules and background checks designed to weed out companies sympathetic to anti-regime forces are also expected to eliminate many other potential rivals, sources said.

History repeating itself

Even in areas that have seen relatively little resistance to the coup, such as Shan State, opportunities to compete for government contracts are drying up.

“It’s strange that local businesses can no longer win government tenders. Only companies that are either junta-owned or junta-affiliated can win them,” said the owner of a trading company based in Muse, a town on Myanmar’s border with China.

While the military’s oversized role in the economy has long been a fact of life in Myanmar, many in the country’s business community say that it is harder now than ever to get ahead without ties to top generals.

The biggest winners these days, apart from those related to members of the military council, are ministry officials loyal to the regime, according to some observers.

“Those people are the ‘brothers’ of the army generals. If you work for one of the ministries, you are practically a member of the military. They are all a part of the same ecosystem,” said a source close to the junta.

The NUG says that one of the chief reasons the military decided to seize power again last year was that it wanted to regain total control over the economy after a decade of relative openness. 

Under successive regimes that ruled Myanmar for nearly half a century, the military’s top brass grew enormously wealthy, even as the country descended into ever-deepening poverty. And now history is repeating itself, according to Kyaw Zaw, the spokesperson of the NUG’s president’s office.

“The army generals and their families are growing richer as ordinary citizens starve. They’re basically robbing the country’s people,” he said.

International companies implicated in scramble for Shan State’s gold under Myanmar junta

An Australian mining giant’s exit has not stopped its former partner from forging ahead in an extractive industry that empowers and finances the military, sources say 

Published on 14 September 2022

By Sally Kantar

An Australian-led mining company has carried on searching for gold in eastern Shan State more than one year after its primary investor withdrew from multiple projects in the country, Myanmar Now has learned. 

Locrian Precious Metals, headed by two Australians and one Myanmar national, is active in what the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) recently termed a “gold mining expansion” that has unfolded in Tachileik Township since the February 2021 coup.

The area in question is in the Loi Kham hills near the town of Ta Ler (also known as Tarlay), 45km northeast of Tachileik’s administrative centre. Multiple local military-linked companies have newly been granted mining access to the area by the junta, alongside scores of smaller enterprises that are reportedly digging without licences, instead “paying off” the military authorities in exchange for access, according to an August SHRF report.

Meanwhile, Locrian has three years remaining on its own five-year exploratory permit covering 456 sq km of land in eastern Tachileik. 

Perth-based mining firm Myanmar Metals held a majority stake in Locrian’s eastern Shan State project until March 2021, when it terminated the relationship in the aftermath of the coup. Less than six months earlier, in a newsletter seen by Myanmar Now, CEO John Lamb celebrated Locrian as “a great addition” to the company’s portfolio, lauding its claim on “one of Asia’s most exciting gold districts.”

“In due course, we will undertake the first systematic exploration program the Tarlay Gold Belt has ever seen,” Lamb was quoted as saying. 

Last September, Myanmar Metals sold its shares in Shan State’s Bawdwin silver and zinc mine to a subsidiary of the conglomerate Asia World, whose head, Steven Law, was subjected to US sanctions for his ties to the military and the drug trade. 

Later renamed Mallee Resources, the company announced in July that it was selling its remaining Myanmar subsidiary, Bright Mountain Resources—whose “sole asset” was US$12m in proceeds from the Bawdwin deal—at a loss to known junta business partner Myanmar Airlines International for $10.2m. 

Myanmar Metals has come under fire for the way it handled the sale of its Myanmar holdings, Watchdogs say the company failed to meet guidelines set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, including those requiring human rights due diligence and consultation with stakeholders. 

Clancy Moore, CEO of Transparency International Australia—who once described Myanmar Metals as having “failed [the] test” of responsible and transparent divestment—said that reports of Locrian’s continued mining exploration amount to “a giant red flag for regulators and communities.”

“If this Australian-linked mine starts producing gold then millions of dollars will line the pockets of the military regime in royalties and taxes which could be used to buy weapons,” he told Myanmar Now.

Locrian’s operations appear to involve a partner company: its leadership also heads “mining support services” firm Valentis Services Ltd., active in the same eastern Shan State region where Locrian’s exploration activities are taking place. 

SHRF highlighted how a Valentis job vacancy advertised the day after the one-year anniversary of the coup called for a new “government liaison officer” to work on the “Locrian project” and “maintain constructive working relations,” presumably with junta authorities.

A Valentis drilling team pictured at an unidentified location in Shan State in early 2020 (Valentis Asia / Facebook)

According to their respective registrations with Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), Valentis and Locrian are housed in the same office in Yangon’s Mayangone Township, and have the same three directors: Australians Michael Bui Phin and Lachlan Foy and Myanmar national La Min Win.

Valentis and Locrian share this office and their management with a range of corporate entities, according to DICA. Among them are local mining services firm Aung Myay Drilling—headed by Phin and La Min Win, as well as another Valentis director, Geoffrey Lowe—and RJE Myanmar, which describes itself as “an Australian-owned engineering and construction company with a reputation for delivering innovative, client-focused solutions that get the job done.” It too is led by Phin and La Min Win, among others. 

A 2015 Australian Business Review article on Australian investment in Myanmar described La Min Win as having “close family connections to the military.” Further information regarding these alleged ties was not known at the time of reporting.

Neither Locrian nor Valentis responded to Myanmar Now’s requests for comment for this article. 

Myanmar military involvement

Locrian and Valentis are also joined in Tachileik by 12 Myanmar companies that hold a total of 20 active mining permits—each for a 20-acre plot around Mong Len village tract and lasting 11 years—according to a list published in late 2021 by the Myanmar Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MNREC) and cited by SHRF. 

Seven of these permits, belonging to five companies, were granted since the coup, signifying an increase in mining activities during this period. 

“Several” of the companies involved are linked to officers who once served in eastern Shan State’s Triangle Regional Command and “clearly used their position to cash in on local gold mining opportunities,” according to SHRF.  

Yet the unofficial number of enterprises looking for gold is much larger, an SHRF spokesperson explained. 

“If we are talking about the total number of companies with licences, it is more than before [the coup]. But if we consider illegal companies, companies without licences, there may be up to 100 groups in total,” an SHRF representative said, citing local estimates which Myanmar Now is unable to independently verify.

The representative added that junta-backed militias typically “provide security” for mining sites, regardless of the legal status of the companies operating there. 

Overview of gold mining in the Loi Kham Hills near Ta Ler (Tarlay) in Tachileik Township, supplied by SHRF (Google Earth)

More than 50km north of Tachileik’s Ta Ler in Mong Phyak (Mong Hpayak) Township, another Australian-led company, Access Asia Mining—registered in Singapore—holds a permit for gold exploration on an 1,800 sq km swathe of land. 

The company came under criticism by SHRF and international watchdogs after its representatives met with local junta officials soon after the coup. No announcements have been made to indicate that they have since withdrawn from the country.

The SHRF representative confirmed that “mining exploration is still ongoing in Mong Phyak,” but did not have further information on the activities of Access Asia in particular. 

Access Asia did not respond to Myanmar Now’s request for comment on the status of the project.

‘The worst flooding’

Gold mining has reaped a heavy environmental toll in eastern Shan State, with toxic waste destroying farmland and poisoning water sources, and land degradation increasing the severity of floods.

“There are horrors happening downstream from these gold mines,” a longtime researcher on the extractive industries in Shan State told Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity. “Companies like Locrian, Valentis and Access Asia are empowering the system that is in place, a system in which the people will never be protected.”

In July, the 52-household village of Na Hai Long in Mong Len village tract was submerged in mud as the Nam Kham stream overwhelmed the community, destroying nine homes and causing extensive damage to another eight. 

Flooding of Na Hai Long village in Tachileik Township in July (SHRF)

“This year has been the worst for flooding,” the SHRF representative said. He explained that the phenomenon has gradually worsened since industrial gold mining began in the area in 2007, and that residents of at least 12 households had already left due to the destruction caused by previous floods. 

At the time of reporting, he noted, no compensation had been provided to the residents whose homes were affected two months ago. In earlier years, flood victims had received between $5,000 and $18,000 from the local authorities, according to SHRF, but the amount was not enough to replace the land or houses they had lost. 

Meanwhile, farmland is reimbursed at a rate of less than $350 per acre, with much of it reportedly yet to be paid out. 

SHRF stated that villagers in the Mong Len area “have been too intimidated to oppose the gold mining” since the 2015 murder of a local man who had objected to the industry. Loong Sarm, a 54-year-old resident of Na Hai Long, was shot and killed by Myanmar army soldiers while monitoring the activities of a local extractive company. 

‘Let the people prevail’

Amendments to Myanmar’s Mines Law, passed in late 2015, essentially encouraged foreign investment in the sector, and were drafted with significant input from the Australian Agency for International Development, the mining minister at the time revealed

Yet community-based organisations in Shan State have long called for a moratorium on mining until, as SHRF said, there is “a federal devolution of power” in Myanmar.

The group noted that the “fast-tracking” of new mining projects by the junta since the coup had made this demand “more urgent than ever.” 

Speaking last year on behalf of the extractive industry transparency campaign Publish What You Pay, Transparency International’s Clancy Moore called on Australian resource companies including Locrian Precious Metals and Access Asia to “give up all exploration licenses and rule out financing the Myanmar military’s regime of terror.”

The statement followed a January withdrawal from Myanmar by oil and gas giants Total, from France; Chevron, from the US; and Australia’s Woodside, and urged mining companies to follow suit. 

In his recent comments to Myanmar Now, Moore urged the Australian government to “listen to the people of Myanmar” and “follow the leadership” of the US, UK and EU by introducing sanctions to cut off revenue to the junta. 

The industry researcher familiar with Shan State’s mining sector dismissed claims put forward by foreign investors that the extraction of Myanmar’s resources is inevitable, and that their own involvement in the process is more “benevolent” than that of their competitors.

“There’s no point in international companies saying, ‘Someone will exploit this situation, it might as well be us,’” the researcher said. “Rather than joining in, these companies need to pull out, not give any funds to the military, and let the people prevail.”

The crony who will control Telenor Myanmar’s customer data 

Military ties and shady business practices have made Thein Win Zaw one of Myanmar’s richest men

Published on 04 March 2022

By Aung Naing

For more than 25 years, Thein Win Zaw has been currying favour with Myanmar’s top generals

As Norwegian telecoms company Telenor prepares to exit Myanmar, there is growing concern that the move will expose the data of its more than 18m customers in the country to the brutal regime that seized power last year. Given that control of Telenor Myanmar may soon be in the hands of Thein Win Zaw, a man with a long and lucrative business relationship with the military, these fears appear to be well-founded.

Thein Win Zaw is the 59-year-old founder of Shwe Byain Phyu (SBP), the company that is set to take over Telenor’s Myanmar subsidiary in partnership with M1 Group, a Lebanon-based investment firm. It was more than 25 years ago, when another, equally repressive junta was ruling Myanmar, that he began working with the country’s generals, building a fortune that continued to grow during the decade-long “democratic transition” that came to an abrupt end last February.

Not long after M1 Group—which is closely linked to the authoritarian governments of Sudan, Syria and Yemen—registered a subsidiary in Singapore as a step towards entering Myanmar’s telecoms market, SBP followed suit by creating Shwe Byain Phyu Telecoms. According to internal communications between the junta’s Post and Telecommunications Department and Telenor seen by Myanmar Now, the two companies are currently negotiating the terms of their shared ownership of Telenor Myanmar.

Media reports and documents obtained by Myanmar Now indicate that once M1 Group has completed its purchase of the company, SBP will buy up to 80% of its shares, putting Thein Win Zaw in a position to hand over any customer data demanded by the regime.

It is extremely likely that he will be more than willing to do so. He and his immediate family—his wife Tin Latt Min, son Win Paing Kyaw, and daughter Theint Win Htet—own more than 20 companies between them, and they all depend heavily on the favour of the regime for their continued existence.

SBP is best known for its chain of petrol stations, but Thein Win Zaw and family are also involved in a host of other enterprises, including jade mining, the import of ammonium nitrate as an explosive used in mining, the timber industry, plastic bag production, and the export of sugar and pulses, among others. 

Together, all of these business interests have earned Thein Win Zaw the honour of being named one of Myanmar’s top 10 taxpayers. Despite this, however, there is abundant evidence to suggest that much of his wealth has never been taxed, because it comes from illicit sources. 

Jade mining

Like other military cronies in Myanmar, Thein Win Zaw has profited greatly from his involvement in extractive industries. Under the dictatorship that held power until 2010, two of his companies—SBP and Win Paing Kyaw, named after his son—received licences to mine in six jade fields, according to a report by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. He is also the chair of the Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association (Yangon).

According to a source close to SBP, only around a third of the jade that the company sold went through official channels, while the rest was shipped directly to China. This process was facilitated by companies owned by military-backed militias based in Kachin State, the source said.  

“They illegally exported raw jade to Guangzhou to be processed and sold. The profits were then sent back to Myanmar,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

Financial records obtained by Myanmar Now show that in 2017, SBP paid Yadanar San Shwin, a company operated by a border guard force in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township, 3 billion kyat ($1.69 million) for transport services. Other internal documents show that SBP’s income from jade exports rose from 3 billion kyat in 2016 to 16 billion kyat ($9 million) in 2017 and more than 25 billion kyat ($14 million) in 2018. These figures are far in excess of those submitted to the government, which are in the tens of millions, not billions, of kyat.

According to the source, Thein Win Zaw has his own facility in Guangzhou to process the jade that he sends there. He also has an agent in the Chinese city named Shan Lay (also known as Nay Min Tun), as well as another trusted associate named Thant Zin Tun, who handles the export of the jade.

“They’ve made huge profits from this trade, which they launder through their petrol business. That’s how they manage to avoid paying taxes,” said the source.

Most of this money, which is denominated in Chinese yuan, is transferred through money changers in Mandalay to company-owned bank accounts in Yangon, although sometimes it is collected in cash by an agent, the source added.

In addition to money made directly from the sale of jade, SBP also brings in hundreds of millions of kyat each month by importing and selling ammonium nitrate to other mining companies, he said.

Of course, the company also has expenses. According to internal financial records from the years 2015 to 2018 seen by Myanmar Now, these include payments made to the heads of various government departments in Naypyitaw, entered under the heading “paying respect.”

When Myanmar Now contacted Thein Win Zaw for comment regarding this information, he simply said that his licence to mine jade in Hpakant had expired in 2018. Asked about his relationship with the military, he declined to say anything. He also said he couldn’t discuss his plans to acquire a controlling interest in Telenor Myanmar because his company was still in negotiations with M1 Group.

An SBP petrol station

Oil and gas

Thein Win Zaw’s first company, Manaw Thitar, was founded in 1996, during the rule of former dictator Than Shwe. Four years later, he established SBP and began an oil import business in cooperation with Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd, a military-owned conglomerate that dominates key sectors of Myanmar’s economy.

After Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May 2008, Thein Win Zaw was granted permission to bring oil into the country without going through official channels. This state-sanctioned smuggling, carried out through ports in Mon State and Tanintharyi Region, enabled him to invest in other sectors, according to the source familiar with SBP’s business operations.

“After Nargis, they let him smuggle oil into the country. And it was after that, in the 2010s, that he went into the gemstone business,” he said.

It was also at this time that he began to establish close relations  with senior leaders of Myanmar’s navy, which reportedly provided security for his fuel-smuggling ships. This would later prove relevant to his bid for control of Telenor Myanmar.

Admiral Tin Aung San, who stepped down as commander-in-chief of the navy after joining the military council formed in the wake of last year’s coup, currently serves as the junta’s minister of transport and communications. In this capacity, he is said to have backed Thein Zaw Win, with whom he had dealings in his previous position, in his efforts to take over Telenor’s Myanmar operations.

But Thein Win Zaw’s ties to the navy have also proven to be a stumbling block to his ambitions. Tin Aung San’s successor as navy commander-in-chief, Admiral Moe Aung, is the brother of Nay Aung, the owner of IGE, another company that has shown an interest in buying Telenor Myanmar. (IGE was one of four companies—two state-owned and two private—that were sanctioned by the EU in late January.)

The oil and gas business remains, however, the focus of SBP’s operations. In 2010, the company received another boost when it purchased 16 state-owned petrol stations from the Myanmar Petroleum Products Enterprise as part of a sell-off of state assets ahead of a transition to quasi-civilian rule orchestrated by the former junta. (All of the 261 petrol stations sold at the time went to military cronies for undisclosed amounts. Official figures released three years later, however, revealed that only 9.2 billion kyat—around $5 million—had been raised from the sale of the petrol stations, meaning that they were sold, on average, for around 35 million kyat, or less than $20,000, each.)

SBP has since opened 13 more petrol stations, in addition to the 16 it purchased in 2010. According to the company’s website, it planned to have 70 in all by 2021. Myanmar Now was unable to confirm if it had reached this goal.

The company’s oil and gas business has also been controversial for other reasons. SBP petrol stations have been accused of operating with a complete disregard for fire hazards by residents of Pauk Khaung in Bago Region and Mongmit in Shan State. And in 2014, five residents of Thet Kel Kwin, a village in Yangon’s Dala Township, were arrested after SBP accused them of “stealing” diesel fuel that had leaked into the water from a company-owned ship.

Close relations with army generals

In addition to his navy connections, Thein Win Zaw also has close ties to a number of top generals. Among the names linked to him are retired Major Aung Naing, the former head of the previous regime’s energy department; retired Major General Maung Oo, who was Than Shwe’s home affairs minister; retired Major General Tha Aye, who was chief minister of Sagaing Region under Than Shwe; former General Myint Swe, the military-appointed vice president who was installed as president during last year’s coup; and retired General Thein Aung, who was chief minister Ayeyarwady Region during the quasi-civilian administration of former General Thein Sein.

Financial records seen by Myanmar Now show that Aung Naing and Maung Oo have both received thousands of dollars a month from SBP. Tha Aye, meanwhile, appears to be connected to Thein Win Zaw through his wife, Tin Latt Min, whose mother was the former general’s teacher. (Tin Latt Min is also close to the wives of several generals, including Than Than Nwe, the wife of General Soe Win, the vice chair of the current junta and deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Than Than Nwe is chair of the Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation, to which Tin Latt Min has made donations.)

Thein Zaw Win was said to be especially close to Myint Swe when he was chief minister of Yangon Region under Thein Sein from 2011 to 2016. According to our source, the businessman was a frequent visitor to the chief minister’s home, “bringing gifts such as meat and fish.”

But Thein Zaw Win’s closest military contact appears to be Thein Aung, the father of Naypyitaw regional commander and Min Aung Hlaing protégé Major General Zaw Hein.

Thein Win Zaw’s relationship with Thein Aung dates back to the ex-general’s days as forestry minister under the previous military regime. According to our source, Thein Aung helped Thein Win Zaw’s family acquire thousands of acres of forest in Bago Region’s Minhla Township for their logging business.

Evidence of donations made by Thein Zaw Win during a trip to Thein Aung’s hometown of Ingapu in Ayeyarwady Region Thein Win Zaw and his wife, Tin Latt Min

Thein Zaw Win has accompanied Thein Aung on trips to his hometown of Ingapu in Ayeyarwady Region as part of a regional development program. In 2012, state media reported that he donated computers and ambulances during these trips, and according to SBP’s website, the company also sponsored a 50-bed hospital in the town, which Thein Aung represented as a candidate of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Besides helping him with his business interests, Thein Aung also came to Thein Zaw Win’s aid when he was facing legal action for a fatal accident that he got involved in while on his way to a golf course.  

“A young woman fell to her death. There were lawsuits going on, and Thein Aung paid the compensation fees for him,” said our source, who is a former SBP employee.

According to the source, Thein Aung receives 2 million kyat from SBP every month, which is recorded under the heading “interest payments” in the company’s internal financial records

Other businesses and assets

According to the SBP website, the company has six subsidiaries and more than 2,000 employees. However, Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) records and data collected by Myanmar Now show that Thein Zaw Win is director of more than 20 companies owned by himself or members of his family.

His daughter, Theint Win Htet, owns a company that produces plastic bags under the brand name Thein Kabar. Founded in 2009, the company produces up to 100,000 plastic bags per day, according to its website.

The Win Paing Kyaw company, named after Thein Win Zaw’s son, exports 6,000 tons of pulses and up to 10,000 tons of sugar to China and India every year. The company’s assets include several processing and storage facilities.

In addition to  Shwe Byain Phyu Telecoms, Thein Win Zaw also registered another telecoms company, One Telecom, last November, according to DICA records. The entire family was initially listed as being on One Telecom’s board of directors, but a month after the company was registered, Thein Win Zaw withdrew his own name.  

A list of companies belonging to Thein Win Zaw and his family (Myanmar Now). Ref: Directorate of Investment and Company Administration

Thein Win Zaw was also the director of the Maha Yoma Public Co Ltd, which has stakes in the junta-owned Mytel telecoms company. However, at the height of the controversy surrounding the sale of Telenor Myanmar in November, he withdrew from his position as Maha Yoma’s director.

Thein Win Zaw is also vice chair of the Myanmar Energy Sector Development Public Co Ltd (MESDP), whose chair is Dr. Win Myint, the owner of the Myat Myittar Mon Oil company. MESDP is a consortium that brings together many of Myanmar’s top business tycoons.

Myanmar Now’s source claimed that Thein Win Zaw and his wife Tin Latt Min aslo have stakes in the Global Treasure Bank and the Mining Development Bank. However, this could not be independently confirmed. 

Evidence of the sale of a state-owned factory compound to Thein Zaw Win

According to internal financial documents seen by Myanmar Now, Thein Win Zaw’s assets include high-value real estate properties in Yangon and other parts of the country. 

“They have so many houses. There’s one on Oak Kyin Street [in Yangon’s Hlaing Township] that they bought for a billion kyat [$562,000] and another on Inya Road. The headquarters of their company is at 16 Shwe Taung Kyar Street in Yangon, right next to the Australian ambassador’s residence,” the former SBP employee said.

A lease seen by Myanmar Now shows that in 2017, Thein Zaw Win also received $47,500 a month from a Hong Kong-based company called PC Myanmar for the rental of another property in Bahan Township’s Shwe Taung Kyar area, which caters to wealthy foreigners and the local elite.

In 2014, SBP purchased a three-acre plot of land in Insein Township previously used by a state-owned machinery factory. The company paid 200 million kyat ($110,000) for the property, records showed.

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