Fugitive Myanmar Gold Mining Executive Arrested in Thailand

By Zaw Zaw Htwe & Htet Naing Zaw 6 November 2019

YANGON—National Prosperity Company (NPC) chair U Soe Tun Shein was arrested in Thailand and extradited to Myanmar on Wednesday after more than a year on the run.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) found in 2018 that NPC had failed to comply with an order, issued the previous year, to suspend its gold mining operation at the Moehti Moemi goldfield in Yemethin Township, Mandalay Region.

MONREC had suspended NPC’s gold mining operation after the company failed to pay 5.57 tons of gold in overdue taxes.

MONREC then filed charges against U Soe Tun Shein for illegal gold mining under Section 30(a) of the Penal Code and the Myanmar police issued a warrant for his arrest. The NPC chair fled the charges and had been on the run until Wednesday.

According to a news report by Myanmar Now, U Soe Tun Shein was seen in Bangkok on Oct. 14 at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

A police convoy leaves Tada-U International Airport in Mandalay on Wednesday after picking up U Soe Tun Shein. / Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

On Oct. 25, Myanmar President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay told the media that the government would cooperate with Thai police to arrest the fugitive businessman.

On Wednesday, Myanmar police confirmed that the mining company executive had been arrested.

“He will be sent to Mandalay from Tachileik. The culprit will be transferred from Thailand after being held by their central bureau, without informing local police,” a source with the Myanmar police told The Irrawaddy. Tachileik is in eastern Shan State on the border with Thailand.

Myanmar lawmaker U Khin Maung Tint of Tachileik Township confirmed to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday morning that U Soe Tun Shein was being held at a police station in Tachileik and that he would be sent to Mandalay on a flight at noon.

U Soe Tun Shein was taken by police convoy via the VIP lounge after he and police arrived at the Mandalay airport in Tada-U at 4:20 p.m. on an Air Thanlwin flight.

U Soe Tun Shein is also well known as a nationalist who has supported the extremist Buddhist nationalist group formerly known as Ma Ba Tha, which has been banned by the government.

While on the run, the company chair paid for lunch for an assembly of nearly 1,000 monks at the Buddha Dhamma Prahita Foundation—the new name adopted by the members of Ma Ba Tha—in Yangon’s Insein Township in June.

Multiple members of NPC have also been sued by MONREC for the same crimes as U Soe Tun Shein and face up to 10 years in jail for violating their contract with the government and refusing to pay taxes.

U Soe Tun Shein and fellow NPC executives have also faced lawsuits for destroying state resources, as they continued the gold mining operation despite the ban.

The government granted NPC permission to develop the 6,000-acre (2,428-hectare) goldfield in Moehti Moemi in 2011.