Dead Generals, Crony’s Wife Removed From US Blacklist

By The Irrawaddy 10 July 2015

RANGOON — The US Treasury Department on Thursday lifted sanctions on two deceased former generals and the wife of Burmese tycoon Tay Za, while maintaining his blacklisted status as a Specially Designated National (SDN).

Lt-Gen Soe Win and Lt-Gen Maung Bo, both leaders of Burma’s former military regime, died in 2007 and 2009, respectively, while Thida Zaw is thought to be estranged from her husband Tay Za and was listed by the Treasury Department as residing in Singapore.

Thida Zaw had been placed on the SDN list along with her children thanks to the business dealings of Tay Za, who was himself listed in October 2007. The SDN designation prevents US companies from doing business with Tay Za and a handful of firms to which he is linked.

One of Burma’s wealthiest businessmen, Tay Za has faced US censure for propping up the former junta and facilitating links with North Korea. His Htoo Group of Companies is a major player in Burma’s tourism, logging, real estate and hotel industries.

While Tay Za remains an SDN, his wife’s removal would appear to be linked to reports that the couple are separated. A 2007 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks describes an interview with Thida Zaw’s eldest son Pye Phyo Tay Za, who said at the time that his parents had been separated for more than six years.

In its notification of her SDN removal on Thursday, Thida Zaw was listed as residing at 6 Cairnhill Circle in Cairnhill Crest, Singapore.

Responding to an inquiry about the delisting, the US Embassy in Rangoon said Thida Zaw was removed “because she no longer meets the criteria for which she was designated.”

“Specially Designated Nationals or SDNs may be removed from the SDN list if they cease sanctionable activities or if they no longer meet the criteria for which they were designated,” a US Embassy spokesperson told The Irrawaddy.

In June 2014, Tay Za and other SDNs met with Treasury Department officials in Burma to discuss Washington’s criteria for delisting, but the US Embassy said Friday that Thida Zaw was not in attendance.

The US Embassy did not offer an explanation for the delisting of the two deceased members of Burma’s former military regime, but a US Campaign for Burma spokesperson speculated that the move was made because “keeping them on the list was likely making life difficult for people with the same names.”

Soe Win served as Burma’s prime minister from 2004 to 2007, when he was succeeded by the country’s current president, Thein Sein. Like most senior members of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Soe Win was sanctioned by the US government for his affiliation with a regime whose reputation for silencing dissidents and democracy activists—sometimes brutally—had earned the reprobation of much of the Western world.

Soe Win had also gained the added notoriety of being known as the “Butcher of Depayin,” linked to the 2003 massacre of scores of National League for Democracy (NLD) supporters when the convoy of party leader Aung San Suu Kyi came under attack by a mob in Depayin, Sagaing Division.

Less is known about Maung Bo, who served as chief of the Bureau of Special Operations-4, a region encompassing southeastern Burma, and was also a member of the SPDC. The former lieutenant general succumbed to liver cancer at a hospital in Singapore in 2009.

The United States has been revising the SDN roster in recent years as Burma’s reform process has unfolded, with high-profile delistings including Thein Sein in September 2012 and more recently Win Aung, a tycoon in his own right and chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).

The last time Washington added a name to the list was on Oct. 31, when it blacklisted Aung Thaung, a senior member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), for “intentionally undermining the positive political and economic transition in Burma.”

Reporting by Andrew D. Kaspar, Feliz Solomon and Yen Snaing.