Blacklisted Arms Expert Continues to Work for Myanmar Military

By The Irrawaddy 28 May 2019

YANGON—A U.S.-blacklisted senior officer in the Myanmar military, accused of making arms deals with North Korea in defiance of UN resolutions, continues to work with the army as a “weaponry advisor” despite his official service years with the army having ended some years ago.

Military spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun confirmed to the media on Monday that Lt-Gen Thein Htay is currently working for the military as an arms expert. He denied rumors of the Lieutenant General’s dismissal following claims that some weapons produced by the military had been smuggled form the army into other hands within the country.

“He is an expert, and their (experts) service years can be extended if the State still needs them,” said the spokesperson.

He added that the army has taken action against those connected with arms smuggling in the past, but refused to elaborate.

Lt-Gen Thein Htay was blacklisted by the US Treasury Department in 2013 for his involvement in the illicit trade of North Korean arms to Myanmar. He was the head of Myanmar’s Directorate of Defense Industries at the time.

“Thein Htay has disregarded international requirements to stop purchasing military goods from North Korea, the revenues from which directly support North Korea’s illicit activities,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.

Trained as an engineer, the Lt-Gen served as border affairs minister during the previous Thein Sein administration.

He took part in a secret visit paid by top Myanmar military officials to North Korea in late 2008. They visited military facilities and, according to the State Department, signed a memorandum of understanding with North Korea to provide assistance to Myanmar to build medium range, liquid-fueled ballistic missiles.

It’s unclear what kind of military hardware and know-how Myanmar has actually obtained from North Korea. The 2008 mission was led by then-junta No. 3, Shwe Mann, now the leader of a newly founded political party Union Betterment Party. On his most recent visit to the U.S. in February 2013, Myanmar had ended arms trading with North Korea.

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