Burma

Business Mogul Tay Za Makes Surprise Appearance at SEA Games

By Yan Paing 17 August 2017

YANGON — In his first public appearance for years, business mogul U Tay Za presented US$10,000 to the Myanmar men’s football team on Monday after the team beat Singapore in the 29th SEA Games in Malaysia.

According to sources, U Tay Za has been in Malaysia since Sunday, together with his son Ko Pyae Phyo Tay Za and two other so-called cronies—U Aung Ko Win, the chairman of Kanbawza Group (KBZ), and Max Myanmar Co. chairman U Zaw Zaw.

Of the Myanmar Football Federation, U Aung Ko Win is patron, U Zaw Zaw is chairperson, and Ko Pyae Phyo Tay Za is vice-chairperson.

U Tay Za, 53, was last seen in public in 2015 when he held a press conference at his residence on Inya Road in Yangon, claiming that he had found uranium in Upper Myanmar.

Over the past few years he has lived in the Thai capital of Bangkok while his two sons have managed his businesses in Myanmar. U Tay Za’s recent public appearance, however, coincidences with an apparent return to the business stage, as on August 5 he met Vietnam’s Petrolimex chairman Dr. Bui Ngoc Bao in Yangon.

Hanoi-based Petrolimex, also known as Vietnam National Petroleum, is one of Vietnam’s biggest oil and gas producers. Company staff were visiting Myanmar to study the market and draft business plans for partnership, according to Vietnam media reports, after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with U Tay Za’s Htoo Group of Companies in Hanoi in July.

In a press release, Htoo Co. stated that Dr. Bui Ngoc Bao also discussed plans with managing director U Pyae Phyo Tay Za. It would be U Tay Za’s first business partnership with an international company since he was removed from the US sanctions list last October.

U Tay Za’s father, who was known as Shangyi Myint Swe in the military circle, had close ties with late military dictator and chairman of the Burma Socialist Programme Party Ne Win.

U Tay Za gained notoriety from accumulating enormous wealth under the junta, mainly from logging. He had, however, pledged to support the development of education and health sectors in border regions to recompense for his controversial business dealings.

He is said to be closely associated with retired dictator Snr-Gen Than Swe, and was blacklisted by the US government in response to his alleged role as a broker in the regime’s procurement of arms and ammunitions from Russia.

In 2014, the US government pressured Singapore authorities to shut down bank accounts of U Tay Za’s Singapore investment firm on suspicion that it had made transactions involving North Korean-linked companies.

In an interview with Forbes in 2014, he complained that US sanctions were stifling his businesses and officials were scrutinizing his every transaction.

Because of US sanctions, U Tay Za was not able to purchase equipment for his airline Air Bagan according to market prices. For this, he reportedly suffered a loss of around US$90 million and the airline has been struggling as a result.

His other businesses include Asia Green Development Bank and a chain of hotels and resort. He even planned to build a luxury resort in Kachin State’s Putao, which is known for its snow-capped mountains.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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