Germany Receives US Blacklisted MP for Financial Tour

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 20 April 2015

RANGOON — A US blacklisted lawmaker is leading a delegation of Burmese banking reformers to Germany this week for a study of financial institutions, a move meant to encourage development of Burma’s dilapidated banking sector.

Aung Thaung, a Lower House parliamentarian who was recently added to the US list of Specially Designated Nationals for “undermining” reform, announced upon his departure on Sunday that he would be overseeing seven members of the Banks and Financial Development Committee on a tour that will continue throughout the month.

The parliamentary committee will meet with several bankers in Germany and throughout the European Union, as well as visit the Central Bank of Germany, he said. The stated purpose of the visit is to observe solutions for financial sector weaknesses and forge a stable course for investment as the country’s trade deficit widens.

Local bankers expressed optimism that the visit could strengthen the capacity of the Central Bank of Myanmar and dozens of private banks now operating in Burma. Pe Myint, managing director of the Cooperative Bank, said that a “lack of human resources” among private financial institutions is still hampering development.

“The Central Bank needs to be reformed, and the private sector needs to be upgraded,” he said, “so we can gradually see reform in the industry.”

Senior Economic Advisor to Burma’s ministry of Commerce Maung Aung told The Irrawaddy that the parliamentary study trip would serve as an important initial step in financial reform.

“Parliament has a major responsibility to make rules and regulations for the local banking sector. In Burma, the banking industry is under development as there are still few users in the country, so we need to promote this sector first,” Maung Aung said.

Aung Thaung, who chairs the committee, was thrown into the international spotlight last November when the US Treasury Department blacklisted him for “perpetuating violence, oppression and corruption” just weeks before US President Obama made his second state visit. A member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and former industry minister, Aung Thaung is viewed as a political hardliner and has close ties with the former military regime.

Members of his immediate family are believed to have benefitted from his close relationship with former junta-leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe. Aung Thaung’s son, Nay Aung, is a 90 percent shareholder in United Amara Bank.