Kyaw Myint, wealthy party leader with checkered past, arrested for escaping from prison in 1999

The leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) was arrested on Tuesday evening for escaping from prison more than 20 years ago, police have told Myanmar Now.

Kyaw Myint was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 for flouting Myanmar’s business laws.

A company he owned was also accused of helping the United Wa State Army to launder drug money. 

But he escaped from Mandalay’s Obo prison the following year and made his way to the US, where he was granted asylum in exchange, he said, for giving authorities information about drug trafficking.

He returned to Myanmar in 2013, but until now faced no legal repercussions for escaping and was not made to serve the rest of his sentence. 

Police detained Kyaw Myint at around 10pm at his home on the lavish Pan Hlaing housing estate in Yangon, a police official told Myanmar Now on Wednesday morning.

“He was mainly arrested for the prison break,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “We are also checking his background, especially how he came back to Myanmar.”

President’s Office spokesperson Zaw Htay said Kyaw Myint was detained under section 224 of the penal code. The law punishes anyone who “escapes or attempts to escape from any custody in which he is lawfully detained.”

“Since he is still an absconder, the police arrested him,” said Zaw Htay. “There are other things about him that remain to be investigated. The police’s work is still ongoing so I can’t answer much more.” 

Section 224 carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine. 

Thirteen police vehicles arrived at Kyaw Myint’s home to detain him on Tuesday night, a security guard who works there and witnessed the arrest told Myanmar Now, requesting anonymity.

“The police put him in the middle of the vehicle’s back seat, but not handcuffed. After a half hour, the township police chief came back as he needed to take some of U Kyaw Myint’s things. Then another vehicle drove in again, apparently to [search] his house,” the guard said. 

The UDP is fielding candidates in almost every constituency in the country for the November 8 election despite the fact it has never had an MP elected to parliament. 

Kyaw Myint reportedly funds the party personally with the help of his large network of business interests. 

In 2011, while he was living in Canada, he was fined $1.5m for insider trading. 

He has previously strongly denied being involved in any illegal activity. 

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