Thein Htay: Burma’s Terminator?
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, September 27, 2021

Thein Htay: Burma’s Terminator?

By MIN LWIN Thursday, August 27, 2009


To win respect and rapid promotion in the Burmese military you have to play hardball. Maj-Gen Thein Htay, who is deputy-chief of Defense Industry l, is one of the toughest players on the field. 

Military insiders say that Thein Htay has played a key role in the modernization of the armed forces, and he is one of the prime promoters of the idea of purchasing missiles.

Maj-Gen Thein Htay, center, with Gen Thura Shwe Mann, right, and a delegation of North Korean officers in 2008.
If reports are true that Burma is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, then he is likely to be a key player in that effort.

Last year, he accompanied Gen Thura Shwe Mann, the regime’s No 3 general, on his clandestine trip to North Korea. During the visit, he and Shwe Mann visited several arms factories and a military hardware deal with the Communist regime was signed.

Known to be an extreme nationalist, Thein Htay didn’t serve long at the infantry battalion level, and he was quickly given an important position at the military industry ministry because of his extensive knowledge of the weapons industry.

Thein Htay received special attention when he advised junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe on how to upgrade the Burmese armed forces. He received a “jump” promotion when Than Shwe grew more serious about buying missiles and missile technology after a series of border skirmishes with Thai forces in 2001-2002.

In 1998, Thein Htay was a lieutenant-colonel on the general staff. In 2006, he was promoted to major general, followed by deputy-chief of Defense Industry 1—a sign that he had the trust of Than Shwe.

Sources say that the junta leader sometimes comes to weapons tests when Thein Htay demonstrates newly bought missiles or other weapons.

Defense Industry 1, one of Burma’s main military industrial complexes, operates 22 manufacturing or procurement facilities, many located on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River west of the Pegu mountain range. Several weapon testing grounds are located near Pegu and Pyi.

Military sources said that Thein Htay has been involved in the upgrading and creation of military facilities, including tunnels for missiles, aircraft and even naval ships. He has also expanded technological assistance of Russia, China, North Korea and Singapore.

Under Thein Htay’s command, military factories manufacture conventional weapons, including automatic rifles, light machine guns and landmines. Sources said that at least two military facilities are believed to be involved in refining uranium.

In earlier decades, the Defense Ministry purchased most of its arms and ammunition under contract with the Federal Republic of Germany’s state-owned Fritz Werner, according to defense analysts.

Burma has procured small arms, jet fighters and naval ships from the West particularly the US and EU countries. However, after the 1988 democracy uprising, Western countries imposed arms embargo and stopped selling arms to Burma.

Thein Htay often travels abroad to look for new sources of weapons and ammunition, upgrade missiles, defensive rockets, anti-aircraft radar and command and control technology.

Should Burma be trying to acquire a nuclear capability, Thein Htay and the Defense Ministry will be key players in that effort.

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Esben Arndt Wrote:
The article states that the EU should have ended weapons sales to Burma after 1989. This is not entirely true as the Indian Helicopter manufacturer HAL has sold Helicopters to the Junta regime. HAL imports a lot of parts for its helicopters from EU countries. Among those parts are; missiles - jet engines etc.

plan B Wrote:
U San Aye,
What has Thein Htay Tay Za and all those cronies of ill-gotten wealth despite the past 20-plus years of useless sanctions has to do with changing approach that might help more than these cronies?
You should read this:

arkar Wrote:
I agree with U San Aye. And I would like to add that the West and other countries think Myanmar's military build up is the threat. But actually it is a joke. The only threat they pose is the sale of those arms to terrorists. Which is possible but all those arms they kept buying are useless for guerrilla warfare. And another point is, those weapons need to be maintained and troops need annual weapons firing session which the junta won't allow. Besides, these are cheap-end weapons Russia and North Korea are throwing away. Those idiots think its gold and since they can't maintain it well, it will probably rot in their warehouse.
Plus, this whole thing is business for them. Than Shwe is a fool and Thein Htay and Tay Za and the rest of them are all robbing us blind.

pLan B Wrote:
Ko Min Lwin
Making the title "Arnold Shwarzenegger" like and reporting the facts, with good eye catching journalism 101 technique.
Thanks for the quick mention of Thein Htay being an "extreme nationalist".
A significant "words to the wise" to those who understand without having to say much.
Kudos to yourself and The Irrawaddy

Eric Johnston Wrote:
The Than Shwe regime may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons and delivery systems. A possible counter-measure by countries that are potentially targeted is to develop their own nuclear arsenal (which is against ASEAN rules).

But this is difficult for a democracy. To finance such a project, the electorate must consent to living standards substantially lower than they would otherwise have. Only fear of the consequences of failing to act can persuade people to make financial sacrifices. Dictators have no such problem with popular opinion.

An alternative is to seek protection under the nuclear umbrella of a major world power. China is an obvious choice, because she is near and is intimately involved with the region.

China may secretly be quite happy to see Burma threaten its neighbours. She would then be able to flex her military muscle and act as an umpire, greatly extending her regional dominance.

Is the Than Shwe regime a Chinese Trojan horse?

San Aye Wrote:
Thein Htay has made a fortune out of this. He is the bird of the same feather. The inside story is that Tay Za approaches Thein Htay under the table and a piece of the cake is given to him. Thein Htay then endorses and placs an order for Tay Za's goods and then Tay Za gives Thein Htay his cut. Thein Hay eats the bones while Tay Za enjoys the meat. Meanwhile many citizens are starving, with no electricity or water. Yet these crooks are enjoying and exploiting the national resources of Burma, stock piling arms for what? To see that their chairs are not moved. Remember that they will die like dogs on the streets of Burma. They think that by hiding in tunnels they will be saved. Little do they realize that they are moving to their dooms days. There is a Burmese saying that The Tiger that wants to die moves to the Jungle. The Junta and all their family will die a miserable death.

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