Tay Za Wants to Stop Chairing Gems Association

Tay Za (R) and his son, Pye Phyo Tay Za. (Photo: www.ygnutd.com)

RANGOON — The Myanmar Gem Entrepreneurs Association (MGEA) said that its chairman Tay Za, a well-known business crony of Burma’s military, wants to resign from his position. The organization claims that it wants him to stay on, despite the fact that he is on a US sanctions list.

Tay Za presented his resignation letter in December citing health reasons and because he wanted to focus on “religious and social work,” MGEA’ s first secretary Kyaw Htay said during a press conference in Rangoon on Friday.

In response, the association called an emergency meeting on Jan. 26 to ask him to remain chairman until 2014. “We still need our chairman’s leadership. We request him to serve until our goals are reached,” Kyaw Htay said, adding that MGEA was awaiting Tay Za’s reply.

“Our association is going to implement a tax-free, value-added gem market, with an international standards gem laboratory as was instructed by our chairman,” he said, referring to a government-backed plan to open a gemstone trade and processing center in the capital Naypyidaw.

Tay Za has been MGEA chairman since 2007. After experiencing a helicopter crash on a mountain in Kachin State in February 2011, he also wanted to resign but the association convinced him to stay, according to Kyaw Htay.

The tycoon, who is in his late 40s, built a business empire by using his close connections with the powerful generals that ruled Burma until 2011. His company Htoo Trading Co. runs an airline, a bank, several hotels, and has interests in mining and agriculture.

Tay Za is on a Western sanctions list. In 2008, the US Treasury Department called him “an arms dealer and financial henchman of Burma’s repressive junta.”

Kyaw Htay maintained, however, that Tay Za was not resigning because his record was harming the MGEA, adding, “Our chairman has good reputation.”

He denied that Tay Za’s possible departure was an attempt to clean up Burma’s jade and gem industry, which also remains under US sanctions. “If our chairman is removed from his post, will the US government even remove sanctions on the gemstones industry or not?” Kyaw Htay asked.

The trade in gemstone resources has long served as a major source of revenue for Burma’s military and ruling elite, and their business cronies. US sanctions restricted trade in the stones but the measures have had little effect, as most jade and gems are sold to China and other Asian countries.

Last year, the US suspended some sanctions against Burma following political reforms. Restrictions on individuals connected to the previous regime and businesses such as the gemstone trade, remain in place.

Despite MGEA’s denials, there are some who say that Tay Za’s resignation is an attempt to clean up the industry’s reputation abroad.

Upper House member Hla Swe told Radio Free Asia on Jan. 18 that Tay Za’s resignation was connected to his listing in the US. He submitted a proposal to create a gem industry hub in Naypyidaw to Parliament in January.

It said Western sanctions remained a major obstacle for developing the lucrative industry, while noting that Tay Za’s chairmanship of the sector was not helping this situation.

Burma produces 90 percent of the world’s rubies, sapphires and fine-quality jade. It holds several sales fairs per year with sales valued at billions of dollars. Most gem buyers come from China.

However, officials have said that gem sales have slumped after China’s economic growth slowed down and the Chinese government increased import taxes on Burmese products, doubling the taxes on jade and gems from 15 percent to 33 percent last year.

7 Responses to Tay Za Wants to Stop Chairing Gems Association

  1. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Tay Za should QUIT the PICTURE (crony in chief of the Burmese military) altogether and GO into MONKHOOD for the REST of HIS LIFE I say!
    His NEAR DEATH ESCAPE in the Kachin Hills is the WARNING SHOT no doubt as well.
    Of course he can CONTINUE ALONG THIS ROAD to INFAMY as well if he so CHOOSES.
    As an arms dealer and other notorious business dealings as well Tay Za’s image is LUSTERLESS THAN A PIECE of CHARCOAL in a MOONLESS NIGHT as well trust me.
    Tay Za’s reputation and standing in Burma as Than Shwe’s CRONY and BUSINESS PARTNER as well are WELL KNOWN, Burma’s ill-reputed TYCOON is in a QUANDARY OVER HIS FUTURE and POSTERITY as well no doubt.
    And Than Shwe’s CHIEF CRONY is TURNING HIS WILES/CHARM on Daw Suu by THROWING MONEY AROUND Burma’s chosen leader and her NLD today no doubt.
    I reckon TALK OF MONEY CAN BUY THINGS IS COMING to FRUITION in Daw Suu and NLD’S case as well.
    Eve and Adam ATE the WRONG FRUIT in the Garden of Eden and MANKIND is SUFFERING TODAY says the people, lest Daw Suu forgets I say.

  2. Tay Za is not just a “gem man” (specializing in jade, I believe), but he is also the man responsible for brokering the deal to sell Ivanhoe copper mines to the Chinese at a ridiculously low price. Of course, Tay Za and the corrupt junta generals were bribed royally by the greedy for their “good deeds”.(one can also blame the “stubborn Suu Kyi sanctions policy” which forced Ivanhoe a Canadian company to sell). Anyway look at what’s happening now to the poor farmers living near letpadaung taung. Total destruction of the environment and their livelihood. I am not even talking about phakant.
    Tay Za owes an apology at least to the poor people of Burma (didn’t he he say he is repenting his bad karma after that helicopter crash near the mountains where the high spirits and the Tibetan griffons that rested on Shwedagon pagoda live lol)

    • Going to bed with former enemy is nothing new in politics. Don’t blame Suu Kyi. the force that drives her is the same force that drives other politicians: greed and lust for power. Be realistic. No politician, Suu Kyi or anyone else, really cares about the poor down-trodden Burmese.
      that is the political reality of the third world and former communist countries.
      A people get the government and leader they deserve. No real statesman can survive in Burma, given the ignorance, blind love for the ‘icon’ and lack of perspective. Hopefully, more freedoms will encourage the noble to enter politics.
      In the meantime, politics will remain ‘business without risk investment capita’; see how Tay Za had accumulated his wealth. Government should levy windfall tax on his wealth – call it robbery tax, tax on robbed wealth from the people.
      More importantly make political donations illegal. Otherwise, Burmese politics will become dirtier and dirtier. Personal corruption of government employees will be replaced by institutionalized corruption of NLD and big business in cahoot. Previously it was the military elite and business cronies. Now it is the alliance of NLD and business cronies. Predictably.

      • I agree.
        Burma is more a feudal oligarchy than anything else. Burmese society has a strong sense of hierarchy (suck up to the people above you and bully the people beneath you) and is based on medieval notions of patronage and appanage (bribery and nepotism). It would be very difficult for true democracy to take root in Burma, unless there is a “French Revolution” of sorts but what’s happening now is more of a “Guanxi-style” Chinese corruption.

  3. After sucking too much blood, he is ready to bribe Buddha.

  4. Tay Za cheated the UN sanctioned arms embargo and brought Russian arms into Burma which the Burmese army used in assaulting the Kachins. His hands are stained with the Kachins’ blood. He is as guilty as the top generals including Thein Sein who is now acting like an innocent man. Thein Sein is responsible for drafting horrible constitution for his own ascension to the throne. Now, he is using Tay Za’s smuggled arms to kill the ethnics. They all need to go straight to hell when they depart from this earth if they escape punishment here on earthly life.

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