Tracking the Tycoons
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Tracking the Tycoons


By THE IRRAWADDY SEPTEMBER, 2008 - VOLUME 16 NO.9


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(Page 2 of 7)

Thida Zaw recently bought the London Cigarette Company and is believed to control Burma’s tobacco industry.

During the crackdown in September 2007, a rumor spread that Tay Za had helped Than Shwe’s wife, Kyaing Kyaing, and members of her family to fly to Dubai to seek refuge there. Tay Za’s relatives denied the rumor, saying that although Tay Za and business associates traveled to Dubai during the turmoil in Rangoon, Kyaing Kyaing was not with them.

Despite the sanctions, the young tycoon is still thriving in Burma’s struggling economy. His company claims that it spent about US $3 million on rescue and rehabilitation work following Cyclone Nargis. Observers noted that Tay Za received lucrative trade concessions from the junta in exchange for donations to the relief effort.


Tun Myint Naing (aka Steven Law)
Asia World Co

Tun Myint Naing
(Illustration Harn Lay/The Irrawaddy)
Tun Myint Naing is the managing director of Asia World Co, Burma’s biggest firm. He is also well-known as the son of former drug kingpin and militia leader Lo Hsing Han, who controlled the opium business in Shan State in the 1970s. Lo Hsing Han assisted the regime to reach a ceasefire agreement with Wa and Kokang insurgents in early 1990.

Asia World was founded on June 5, 1992, and has developed into the country’s biggest business conglomerate, with interests ranging from transport to construction and retailing. The company’s many government contracts include road building in Shan State, the renovation of Rangoon’s international airport, and the construction of a deepwater port and toll highways.

Tun Myint Naing and Lo Hsing Han were put on the US sanctions lists in February 2008, along with their companies Asia World Co Ltd, Asia World Port Management, Asia World Industries Ltd and Asia World Light Ltd.

Golden Aaron Pte Ltd and nine other Singapore-based companies managed by Tun Myint Naing’s wife Cecilia Ng were also targeted, as was Ng herself.

Golden Aaron Pte Ltd is associated with a contract between Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise and a business group—including the China National Offshore Oil Company Myanmar Ltd—to carry out oil and gas exploration in Kyauk Phyu, Arakan State.

Asia World built a port for cargo ships on the island of Ramree specifically to service China’s shipping needs. The port at Kyauk Phyu was connected to a new 1,950-km (1,220-mile) highway to be built through Burma directly to Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan Province.

Asia World has been assigned to build hydropower projects across the country and is now involved in constructing the Myit Sone hydropower project, 42 km (26 miles) north of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.

Company business is still going strong, thanks to Tun Myint Naing’s connections in China. Beijing has no interest in imposing sanctions on Burma as long as it enjoys a special relationship with the Burmese regime and its cronies.

The company maintains a very close relationship with the regime. Tun Myint Naing recently accompanied Snr-Gen Than Shwe on a visit to cyclone-affected areas of the Irrawaddy delta and has been given contracts for reconstruction projects in the region.


Zaw Zaw
Max Myanmar Group of Companies

Zaw Zaw, 42, is the managing director of the Max Myanmar Group of Companies, which he founded in 1993.

(Photo: Cristina Dorada/The Irrawaddy)
The conglomerate is involved in the beverage market, gems and jewelry, transportation, civil construction, hotels and tourism, palm oil production, rubber plantations and mechanical engineering exports and imports. The company operates a three-star hotel in Chaung Tha, a popular resort town, and the Royal Kumudra Hotel in Naypyidaw. It is also involved in the construction of an expressway and an eight-lane road in Naypyidaw.

Like Tay Za and Tun Myint Naing, Zaw Zaw played a very visible role in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. The three top businessmen accompanied senior generals on trips to the devastated Irrawaddy delta and were instructed to contribute to reconstruction projects in the region.



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