Unicef Rents Rangoon Office From Former General

Myanmar, Burma, Unicef, aid, agency, children, Children’s Fund, United Nations, Bahan, Golden Valley, Rangoon, Yangon, general, military, crony

The gate of Unicef’s office in Golden Valley, Bahan Township, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Rangoon. (Photo: Hein Htet / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) is paying as much as US$90,000 per month to a former Burmese military general to rent its Rangoon office, sources familiar with the arrangement told The Irrawaddy.

The relief agency last year moved into a large compound in a swanky neighborhood of Burma’s former capital, where rents charged by the area’s well-connected land owners have skyrocketed in recent years. A real estate expert said the rental price paid by the agency was in line with the property market in the area.

Unicef Myanmar did not responded to The Irrawaddy’s requests for comment.

Unicef moved from downtown Rangoon’s Traders Hotel (now renamed Sule Shangri-La) in October 2013 to an office on Inya Myaing Road, in the leafy area of Bahan Township known as Golden Valley. The area is one of Rangoon’s most expensive, and the organization that provides humanitarian assistance to children and mothers in developing countries now counts among its neighbors crony businessmen and military officials.

According to two people close to the agency’s operations in Burma, Unicef’s property itself is rented from former Gen. Nyunt Tin, minister for agriculture and irrigations under the former military regime and a former intelligence officer with close links to former Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

“Unicef’s office is rented from former General Nyunt Tin, who owns the land in Bahan Township,” one of the people said. “I don’t know the exact size of this estate, but it may be at least one-and-a-half acres, so renting fees will be more than in other areas.”

Both sources, who asked not to be identified, said the monthly rental cost of Unicef’s Bahan Township office was between $80,000 and $90,000.

Unicef’s spacious new base in Rangoon appears to have raised eyebrows overseas. According to parliamentary records in Britain—which through its Department for International Development (DFID) is a major donor to Unicef—the subject was raised by opposition peer Susan Nye in a written question to the UK government.

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether UNICEF in Burma is renting office space from former General Nyunt Tin; if so, at what annual cost; and whether they have had any discussions with UNICEF regarding the decision to rent those offices,” asked Nye, a board member at the Burma Campaign UK.

The response from British government spokeswoman Lindsay Northover said, “DFID is not responsible for UNICEF’s choice of office space or its cost. We have not had discussions with UNICEF regarding its choice of office space.”

Zaw Zaw, manager of Unity real estate agency, said that the price of $80,000-$90,000 would be about right for the property, a large compound that includes a number of buildings. He also confirmed that the property was known to be owned by Nyunt Tin.

“At the market rate, this real estate [Nyunt Tin’s house] is valued around $27 million,” Zaw Zaw said.

Unicef was a among a number of other UN agencies that moved out of Traders Hotel last year as the hotel raised its prices. Although increasingly costly, villas and office space in areas like Bahan Township are generally better value than in downtown Rangoon. Other parts of the city offer cheaper rental rates, however.

“UN offices, international NGO offices and businesses are moving to land areas from office towers and hotels in the downtown area because renting rates have hugely increased in the past three years,” Zaw Zaw said.

5 Responses to Unicef Rents Rangoon Office From Former General

  1. $80,000 – $90,000 per month is impossible. That’s not the market price in Yangon. I would believe it’s between $8,000 (approx. 8,000,000 MMK) to $20,000 (approx. 20,000,000 MMK) per month.

  2. Rental cost for $ 80,0000 to $ 90,000 a month or a year? Whatever. Who care? UNICEF is doing a good job for taking care of dictators’ children. Right? Sleep tight with generals, UNICEF. Your butt gets really wet anyway.

  3. It’s also indicative of the lifestyle of UNICEF. 4X4 (new) Pajaros, high housing stipends, free tuition for children of staff. It’s out of control, that organizations such as UNICEF will jump into bed with billionaire genocidal generals. Consider how much good is actually done by UNICEF, and you might be surprised. Not much other than cushy jobs. The recipients of UNICEF live in tents and you live and work in luxury. Something needs to be done, to cease the standard that the UN and other NGO’s have come to expect. It’s pathetic.

  4. UNICEF is depending on donations money and contribution money from UN.Why should they have to pay such an expensive rental charges? You can get good villas in Yangon near Kaba Aye Pagoda Road around US$8000 to 12000/month only. Who is the stupid to give such lucrative money US$ 80,000 to 90,000/month? Is it giving bribery, under table OR What for other business to do with GENERALS in Burma ( Myanmar )?

  5. The rental price based on word of mouth in the sector was thought to be around $90,000 per month. The justification of a ‘fair’ price per square feet detracts from other major points. According to UNICEF’s own press release from May 2014 they relocated from Traders Hotel where 130 staff worked. When considering the price per square foot, the density of people must also be considered as the UNICEF office is particularly spacious with lots of square feet per person. Therefore when comparing costs of UN and NGO office rental it would be more appropriate to consider the cost per person. This puts the office cost per staff at UNICEF at almost $700. By contrast similar calculations for some International NGO offices in Yangon range between $100 to $150. I wonder what private sector international companies such as Telenor or Unilever are paying per person?

    For those that have not yet read the letter from Tamas Wells at Paung Ku Forum, he raised some excellent points which both UN and NGO’s should reflect upon. A wonderful letter.

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