Former Thai PM Thaksin Meets Min Aung Hlaing in Burma

By Saw Yan Naing 18 April 2013

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra paid a visit to Burma over the Buddhist New Year, where he met with the commander-in-chief of Burma’s armed forces.

In a picture that was uploaded to his Facebook account on Thursday, Thaksin is seen with Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing at a luxurious residence in what the former prime minister said was Maymyo, also known as Pyin Oo Lwin, a scenic hill town in Mandalay Division. Maymyo is also a military outpost.

Thaksin is pictured using a wet frond to sprinkle water on Min Aung Hlaing in a traditional Buddhist New Year gesture of blessing and respect. The New Year observance is also known as the water festival, or Thingyan.

In the Facebook post, Thaksin wrote that after visiting Hunan Province in China, he traveled to Maymyo, where he met with Min Aung Hlaing and celebrated Thingyan with other acquaintances there on Monday.

He went on to say that he had stayed overnight at a residence once owned by a British governor during Burma’s colonial era. The residence was bombed by the Japanese in World War II but was later restored, according to Thaksin.

The ex-premier wrote that the weather in Maymyo was good for his trip, and that he had slept well. He also said Maymyo was a nice place to relax.

Thaksin, however, made no mention of anything related to the politics or economics of the fast-changing nation.

A Bangkok-based British journalist, Larry Jagan, said he had learned that Thaksin had purchased property in Maymyo. Jagan said he believed that Thaksin also met with Burma’s former dictator, Than Shwe, during his trip to the country.

“I understand he [Thaksin] bought property there [in Myamyo] to have a house there. I also believe that he met Than Shwe when he was there [in Burma]. But I’m not sure whether he met Than Shwe in Maymyo or Naypyidaw,” said Jagan, who has covered Burma for years.

Thaksin already holds property in Dawei, the southernmost town in Tenasserim Division, where a special economic zone is planned and the multimillion-dollar Dawei deep-sea port project is under construction.

The former Thai premier has been spotted in Burma several times since 2011, with little explanation as to the reason for his visits.

A Thai observer told The Irrawaddy that she did not know of the reason for Thaksin’s latest trip, but said the ousted Thai premier has oil and gas interests in Burma.

Thaksin once visited in December 2011, a week before his younger sister, current Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, made an official visit to Burma on Dec. 19 to attend the Greater Mekong Subregion Summit.

At that time, Thaksin said he had traveled to Burma in order to “smooth the way” for his sister’s visit. He told the Bangkok-based English newspaper Bangkok Post that his sister’s visit to Burma would include discussions on energy deals that would benefit Thailand.

Before he was ousted by a military coup in 2006, the former prime minister was accused of using his political office to enrich himself through business dealings in Burma.

In 2004, Shinawatra Satellite, a telecommunications company owned by the Shinawatra family, leased a satellite service to Bagan Cybertech, a Burmese company formerly owned by the son of Burma’s former prime minister and spy chief, Gen Khin Nyunt.

Thaksin was later found guilty by a Thai court of pressuring the Foreign Ministry to approve a 4 billion baht (US $139 million) loan to Burma to pay for the deal.