Burma

How Myanmar’s Coup Leader Got Hold of Residences on Yangon’s Inya Lake

By Paw Htun 17 January 2022

Were Inya Lake an animate being, it could tell many stories about Myanmar’s politics. The famous lake in Yangon has witnessed the way Myanmar’s politics has been shaped by its residents, from the prestigious Yangon University, the birthplace of Myanmar’s independence struggle, to the residences of Myanmar’s dictatorial and democratic leaders.

From Myanmar’s first military dictator Ne Win to democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, their lakeside residences have been intertwined with Myanmar’s politics.

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and his family

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing is one of the landlords in the upmarket village neighborhood on Inya Lake. And he has two. Min Aung Hlaing did not have a house of his own in an affluent neighborhood in the commercial capital Yangon until he was handpicked by former dictator Senior General Than Shwe to become the military chief in 2011. But in the next five years, he managed to acquire two residences in the Inya Lake neighborhood worth billions of kyats (millions of US dollars).

One of his residences is known as 14 Inya, located at No. 14 Inya Road. Another is at 6 ½ Mile, close to the Lotte International Hotel and not far from Kan Thar Yar Hospital, in which he has a financial interest.

Until 2014, the coup leader stayed at 14 Inya whenever he came to Yangon, but since 2015 he has preferred to stay at the 6 ½ Mile residence, according to striking military personnel.

The 14 Inya residence used to be a military guesthouse, commonly known as the military intelligence guesthouse, where military leaders received foreign diplomats and ethnic armed organization leaders.

One of the prominent figures who visited the location was the late leader of the Karen National Union (KNU) General Saw Bo Mya, better known as Bo Mya. Military intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt received him at the guesthouse, according to a former military intelligence officer.

In his heyday as the military spy chief in the 1990s, Khin Nyunt would celebrate Thingyan, the water festival that marks Myanmar’s New Year, at the guesthouse together with military leaders and artists.

But since 2011, Min Aung Hlaing has made the guesthouse his own mansion.

“When Senior General Than Shwe stepped down, he asked [then] General Min Aung Hlaing if he had a house in which to live in Yangon. [Min Aung Hlaing] said he did not, so that guesthouse was given [to him],” a former lieutenant general from the previous military regime told The Irrawaddy.

Min Aung Hlaing and military leaders at the opening ceremony of Kan Thar Yar Hospital in December 2017.

The guesthouse was then sold to Min Aung Hlaing at a price much lower than the market rate at the time and transferred from military ownership to Min Aung Hlaing’s private ownership, said the former lieutenant general.

Today, the property is valued in the millions of US dollars—something Min Aung Hlaing could not afford with his own official remuneration package.

Not content with the 14 Inya residence, Min Aung Hlaing had the residence at 6 ½ Mile transferred to his private possession. It was created from three compounds previously owned by the military and used to house serving major generals dating back to the time of late military dictator Ne Win.

One of Min Aung Hlaing’s two residences on Inya Lake is near the Lotte Hotel.

Before the military’s headquarters was moved to Naypyitaw, the last occupants of those three compounds were joint adjutant-generals Major General Maung Nyo and Major General Kyaw Win, and deputy air defense chief Major General Kyi Win.

The compounds were left vacant after the three moved to serve at Naypyitaw military headquarters. Following the relocation of the headquarters, some military-owned properties were sold or leased to businesses and individuals.

Min Aung Hlaing purchased the three compounds and started building a mansion there in 2014. It is not known how much he paid for the compounds. Real estate agents said a plot of land is worth millions of US dollars in that particular neighborhood.

The luxury Lotte Hotel sits on land leased from the military, and was reportedly built by a company owned by the Myanmar Navy chief’s brother.

The mansion was built by IGE Co. owned by U Nay Aung, the elder brother of Myanmar’s Navy chief Admiral Moe Aung, according to a striking government employee from Yangon.

Nay Aung and Moe Aung are the sons of U Aung Thaung, the former Industry Minister who was notorious as the most corrupt official in the former military regime. The military leased the land on which the Lotte Hotel now sits to IGE in 2012.


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