Burmese Tycoons Part I
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Burmese Tycoons Part I

By The Irrawaddy JUNE, 2000 - VOLUME 8 NO.6

(Page 3 of 3)

Through its partnership with Asia World, Kuok Singapore Ltd was Burma’s single largest real estate investor as of late 1996, having invested over US$650 million in various projects. Beginning with the importing into Burma of Kuok’s cooking oil, Asia World’s business expanded to include the sub-contracting of Kuok Group projects, including the construction of the Traders and Shangrila hotels in Rangoon.

Asia World’s operations now include a deepwater port in Rangoon, the Leo Express bus line to northern Burma, and a US$33 million toll highway from the heart of Burma’s opium cultivating region to the Chinese border. It is alleged that these operations are to facilitate the movement of drugs and to launder drug profits. There is further speculation about the origins of the initial investment that has seen Asia World grow from humble beginnings to one of Burma’s largest and fastest growing private sector companies in just 6 years.

Steven Law was refused a visa to the USA on suspicion of involvement in narcotics trafficking in 1996 and Washington is leading a narcotics investigation into Asia World’s operations. More than half of Singapore’s investment in Burma goes through partnerships with Asia World, totaling more than US$1.3 billion. Asia World’s intimate relationship with Singaporean business interests thus provides a direct route for the narcotics trade to be woven into seemingly legitimate investments between Singapore and Burma, alleged US officials.

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