Myanmar junta cronies gathered around regime leader Min Aung Hlaing on Sunday and donated cash for the colossal Maravijaya Buddha statue in Naypyitaw.
The statue is due to be consecrated on August 1 and the list of those attending events has been used to chart who is showing solidarity with Min Aung Hlaing.
He first officially invited his business allies to the site on June 29 with a second event on Sunday.
Present on Sunday were former actress Nandar Hlaing, daughter-in-law of Zaykabar Co owner Khin Shwe, assistant to ex-dictator Than Shwe Dr Tha Yin Myint, U Yang Ho, Shwe Than Lwin Co owner Kyaw Win and business owners with ties to military-owned conglomerates Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd.
Min Aung Hlaing thanked former dictator Than Shwe for donating the giant marble block to Myanmar’s military in 2017.
At the first donation in late June, 101 business owners contributed over 16 billion kyats (about US$4.8 million). Present were CB Bank founder U Khin Maung Aye, Max Myanmar Group of Companies chairman U Zaw Zaw, Tun Myint Naing of Asia World, U Zaw Win Shein of Ayeyar Hinthar Holdings, Yuzana Co founder U Htay Myint, Dagon Company founder U Win Aung and Shwe Thanlwin Co owner U Kyaw Win.
On Sunday, Min Aung Hlaing received 17.4 billion kyats from 377 individuals. A notable donor was former spy chief Khin Nyunt.
The ex-general reportedly has Alzheimer’s disease and did not attend Sunday’s event.
Min Aung Hlaing visited Khin Nyunt at his Yangon house in late 2021 and reportedly offered treatment at military hospitals and had Khin Nyunt’s pension restored.
Khin Nyunt, who was notorious for masterminding deadly interrogations and prosecutions of political dissidents, was purged in 2004 by former dictator Than Shwe. He was given a 44-year prison sentence which was later commuted to house arrest. He was freed in a 2011 amnesty by Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government.
Shwe Hmaw Wun, a charity founded by Khin Nyunt, donated 300 million kyats to the construction in the name of Khin Nyunt and his wife.
Khin Nyunt founded the charity after his release with 7.5 million kyats of his own money and 2.5 million kyats from prominent Buddhist monk Sitagu Sayadaw, who funded Khin Nyunt after his prison release.
On July 16, Min Aung Hlaing gathered ex-generals in Maravijaya Park, including acting president Myint Swe, former president Thein Sein, former Union Election Commission chair Tin Aye and Union Solidarity and Development Party chair Khin Yi.
US-sanctioned Pyae Phyo Tay Za, son of tycoon U Tay Za, donated 150 million kyats. Nandar Hlaing, the daughter-in-law of U Khin Shwe, who is reportedly in junta custody, donated 100 million kyats. U Kyaw Win donated 200 million kyats and Dr. Thar Yin and U Yang Ho donated 100 million kyats each.
U Tay Za and U Aung Ko Win, the owner of the Kanbawza Group of Companies, did not attend the ceremonies but a Kanbawza subsidiary donated 300 million kyats. U Aung Ko Win is reported to have close ties with Min Aung Hlaing and funded the construction of a Bagan-style pagoda in Moscow, which Min Aung Hlaing consecrated in July last year.
Sitagu Sayadaw, who publicly supported the 2021 coup, on Sunday was given the Thray Sithu title for performing religious rituals at the statue.
Zaykabar U Khin Shwe and Dr Tha Yin Myint are also known to have close ties to Khin Nyunt. The two business owners used to make donations with the former spy chief.
Dr Tha Yin Myat served as a broker for Than Shwe’s regime to buy weapons and export Myanmar’s resources. He also made donations with ex-president Thein Sein.
He funded a religious building in Yangon which he opened together with Min Aung Hlaing on the junta boss’ birthday on July 3 last year.
Yang Ho, an ethnically Chinese resident from Kokang, is a military business partner in steel and iron production to make weapons.
He has been a partner of Myanmar’s military since the Than Shwe regime with close ties to U Aung Ko Win, and A Bank owner U Zaw Win Shein.
Pyae Phyo Tay Za is sanctioned by the US along with his father U Tay Za and brother Htoo Htet Tau Za.
In February, Min Aung Hlaing extended emergency rule by six more months until the end of July, postponing a proposed election from August this year.