Myanmar Times owner Thein Tun dies in Bangkok hospital aged 85, says employee 

Thein Tun, a prominent tycoon and owner of defunct newspaper The Myanmar Times, died at a hospital in the Thai capital of Bangkok on Monday at the age of 85, according to an employee.

“He had so many diseases as he was quite old,” said the former employee, who wished to remain anonymous and worked as a supervisor for Myanmar Consolidated Media, which owns The Myanmar Times. 

“He initially had surgery at a local hospital [in Myanmar] and then got transferred to a hospital in Bangkok. I checked with his granddaughter in Bangkok when I heard the news this morning and she confirmed that it was true,” said the supervisor, who did not elaborate on the cause of death. 

The Myanmar Times ceased its operations in February last year following the military coup. Plans were reportedly underway to resume publishing in April this year but were hindered by Thein Tun’s deteriorating health.

Last year’s closure came after more than a dozen journalists resigned from the paper. They said management had instructed them to avoid using the term “coup” and had compelled a reporter to attend a junta press conference even though journalists had agreed to boycott it. 

Before purchasing his initial stake in the newspaper, Thein Tun was best-known as the man who brought Pespi to Myanmar in the 1990s. He later started his own soft drinks company after the American beverage giant left Myanmar amid sanctions. 

Thein Tun (center) pictured with Ross Dunkley (left) and Tin Tun Oo in 2014 (Supplied)

Thein Tun first bought shares in Myanmar Consolidated Media from Tin Tun Oo in 2014 and became the sole owner after buying the remaining shares from Ross Dunkley, an Australian publisher, the following year.

In the years after Dunkley sold his shares, relations between management and the paper’s foreign editorial staff deteriorated, with editors taking particular objection to the publication of racist anti-Rohingya content.  

In an interview with Forbes in 2018, he said he regretted buying the paper. “In 2014 I did a stupid thing–I bought the Myanmar Times,” he said. “I had a gut feeling to buy it, but it doesn’t make money.”

He also said during the interview that he was different from other Myanmar tycoons and did not get rich by bribing the generals. “I am not a crony. I am straight,” he said.

His charity, the Tun Foundation, donated $1 million to various causes each year, according to a 2013 interview with The Myanmar Times. 

The tycoon also had interests in construction, hotels, real estate, banking and agriculture. 

His 17 businesses generated a yearly income of $4 million between 2012 and 2014, according to Forbes. 

He leaves behind two sons, Thant Zin Tun and Oo Tun, and a daughter named Mar Mar Tun.

Thein Tun repeatedly denied having links with the military, but in 2018 his foundation published a book written by Soe Thane, a minister who worked in the military-installed government of Thein Sein. 

Last year Soe Thane published a new book praising the military’s coup as a “very smart move”.

“Myanmar’s independence was restored on Feb 1, 2021,” he wrote. 

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