Myanmar arms broker arrested in Thailand

Known Myanmar military arms broker Dr Tun Min Latt was recently arrested by Thai authorities in Bangkok after being accused of channeling illicit funds through his businesses in Shan State’s Tachileik.

The 53-year-old was detained by the Royal Thai Police (RTP) on September 17 along with three Thai nationals for suspected involvement in narcotics distribution and money laundering. According to a Wednesday statement by the RTP’s information department, police also seized some 200m baht (more than US$5.37m) worth of assets.

Tun Min Latt

Yadanar Maung, a spokesperson for Justice for Myanmar (JFM), said on Wednesday that the activist group “welcomed” the arrests of Tun Min Latt and his associates.

“In addition to the alleged crimes they were arrested for, they are business partners of the Myanmar military and have enabled atrocity crimes. They must be held accountable and targeted for sanctions,” Yadanar Maung told Myanmar Now. 

According to both JFM and an anonymous source in Thailand familiar with the case, the four individuals are accused of purchasing electricity from Thailand’s Provincial Electricity Authority and selling it across the Thai border in eastern Shan State’s Tachileik through the company Myanmar Allure Group. They are also said to have channeled funds from the drug trade through the entity’s Tachileik-based casino. 

An April report by JFM outlined how the Myanmar Allure Group grew out of a 1999 resort deal signed between Tun Min Latt’s father, Lt-Col Khin Maung Latt —the director-general of the tourism ministry under an earlier military administration—and Thai senator Upakit Pachariyangkun, representing the Thai-owned Allure Group. 

Upakit is described by JFM as a “close and longstanding business partner” of Tun Min Latt. 

The Allure Resort casino was subsequently built on state-owned land by the Star Sapphire group of companies—of which Tun Min Latt is managing director. When it opened in 2003, it was operated by the Myanmar Allure Group, a company set up by Tun Min Latt and Upakit. 

JFM described Star Sapphire as having “played a key role in brokering deals for arms and military equipment” with China and Israel on behalf of Myanmar’s armed forces, in which Tun Min Latt was “directly involved.”

One of the three Thai nationals arrested with Tun Min Latt is Dean Young Gultula, a former director of Myanmar Allure Group, and reportedly Upakit’s son-in-law. 

Upakit stepped down from the Allure Group in 2019 to enter Thai politics, selling the Tachileik casino resort for more than $8m to another Thai businessman with ties to Tun Min Latt: Chakris Kajkumjorndej, according to JFM. 

The Myanmar Allure Group claims to operate under the Star Sapphire conglomerate, but JFM pointed out that its largest shareholder remains its Thai-owned counterpart, “suggest[ing] that Tun Min Latt’s Thai associates are acting as his proxies in the casino investment.”

“The Allure Resort, and its connection to Star Sapphire’s wider network of business interests, raises serious money laundering and illicit financing concerns,” JFM stated in the April report. 

On Wednesday, JFM claimed that Upakit had quietly maintained a connection to the Myanmar Allure Group’s activities, and spokesperson Yadanar Maung called on the Thai authorities to “further investigate [his] involvement.” 

Upakit denied having close ties to Tun Min Latt in a Bangkok Post report published on Friday, admitting to being acquainted with him through an electricity distribution venture but emphasising that he sold his Tachileik hotel in 2015 and had not visited the town since. 

Describing himself as “follow[ing] the teachings of Buddhism,” he said he had no interest in arms trade and believed that Tun Min Latt was just a “representative coordinating between a supplier and the government.”

Editor’s Note: This article was updated twice—on the evening of September 21 to incorporate comment from Justice for Myanmar and further developments concerning the arrests and again on September 23 to include comments from Upakit Pachariyangkun to the Bangkok Post

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