Burma

How Myanmar’s Junta Chief Grabbed His ‘Other’ Inya Lake Home

By Agga Aung 31 May 2022

When it comes to the subject of where Min Aung Hlaing resides while in Yangon, most people think of “14 Inya”, or house No. 14 in the Inya Lake neighborhood in Yangon. The residence made headlines recently when the civilian National Unity Government announced that it is selling shares in the home to raise money for the ongoing revolution against the military regime. It has raised US$6 million from the sale so far.

Not far from there, however, Min Aung Hlaing owns another residence, which he seized after becoming military chief. It is located at 6 ½ Mile on Myat Khin Yeik Tha Lane, close to the Lotte International Hotel and not far from Kan Thar Yar Hospital, in which he has a financial interest.

Min Aung Hlaing used to tell his colleagues that his predecessor, former dictator Senior General Than Shwe, gave him 14 Inya because he had no residence in Yangon.

Not many generals have the opportunity to ask Than Shwe if he did so; even if they did, they may not have the courage.

But what is certain is that Min Aung Hlaing can’t use the same excuse to explain how he came to possess his residence on Myat Khin Yeik Tha Lane. The Irrawaddy last week reported on how Min Aung Hlaing acquired 14 Inya; this week, let’s see how he acquired another home in the Inya Lake neighborhood.

The lane that disappeared

Myat Khin Yeik Tha Lane runs past the Market Place Shopping Mall and the Lotte Hotel, eventually reaching Inya Lake.

Before the army office was relocated from Yangon to Naypyitaw, the land on which the Lotte Hotel now stands was home to the Sin Phyu Shin Housing facility, where military officers of the rank of lieutenant colonel and above lived. A number of high-ranking military officers also had residences along the lane, and these were left vacant after the military office was moved to Naypyitaw.

Min Aung Hlaing, his wife Kyu Kyu Hla and their grandchildren celebrate the Thingyan water festival in April 2022. / Cncds

Senior military officers were taken aback by the sheer greed displayed by Min Aung Hlaing in seizing three compounds there.

The last occupants of those three compounds were joint adjutant-generals: Major General Maung Nyo, Major General Kyaw Win, and deputy air defense chief Major General Kyi Win, according to a retired lieutenant general.

Min Aung Hlaing has also fenced off the lane from Pyay Road to Inya Lake, so nothing can be seen from outside, and no one can use it. Occasionally, even the street sign indicating the location of the lane is taken down, making it virtually invisible.

“He had all the buildings on three compounds demolished and had a mansion built. It is like a palace. There are pools inside the mansion,” said a retired military officer who has been there.

Like 14 Inya, Min Aung Hlaing acquired Myat Khin Yeik Tha while U Myint Swe—currently the acting president in Min Aung Hlaing’s regime—was serving as Yangon Region chief.

At the time, few people noticed his acquisition of Myat Khin Yeik Tha residence, as most were distracted by the heated controversy over the planned Dagon City Housing project on military-owned land near Shwedagon Pagoda.

Sin Phyu Shin staff quarters

The land housing the luxury Lotte Hotel was reportedly leased out in 2012.

Min Aung Hlaing’s nearby Myat Khin Yeik Tha mansion was built by IGE Co., which is owned by U Nay Aung, a son of U Aung Thaung, a former industry minister who was notorious as the most corrupt official in the former military regime.

U Nay Aung is the brother of Myanmar navy chief Admiral Moe Aung. From the time he joined the navy as a junior officer, Moe Aung was widely tipped to become navy chief one day because of his father’s wealth and power.

Min Aung Hlaing’s main home on Inya lake with surrounding landmarks is seen on Google Maps.

Within a few days of the coup, Min Aung Hlaing replaced Admiral Tin Aung San with Moe Aung as the navy chief. Tin Aung San was demoted to transport and communications minister.

Another of Moe Aung’s brothers, Pyi Aung, is married to the daughter of former Vice Senior General Maung Aye, deputy supremo in the previous military regime. The family has become one of the wealthiest in Myanmar, having exploited their position to engage in business opportunities when Maung Aye was a powerful general close to Than Shwe.

A businessman close to the military said Min Aung Hlaing paid the government for the three compounds, but he did not know how much.

A real estate agent said even if Min Aung Hlaing bought the compounds at the “government rate”, he might as well have been given them for free, because such government rates are much lower than the market rates, and lakeside houses in the Inya Lake neighborhood are worth millions of US dollars. (And even if he did pay at the full rate, that would simply raise the question of where he got such a large sum of money.)

Hospital with a helipad

After selling the Sin Phyu Shin staff quarters, Min Aung Hlaing had the Kan Thar Yar International Specialist Hospital built nearby.

Though the hospital, which opened in December 2017, is officially owned by the military-owned Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), Min Aung Hlaing has a substantial interest in it, retired military officers told The Irrawaddy.

Construction of the Kan Thar Yar Hospital was supervised by then-Military Quartermaster General Nyo Saw, a close aide of Min Aung Hlaing and chairman of MEC.

Nyo Saw retired from his military position in 2020, but was kept on as the chairman of MEC by Min Aung Hlaing to protect his interests, said a retired military officer.

A screengrab from a Kan Thar Yar Hospital promotional video.

Kan Thar Yar Hospital has its own helicopter landing pad near Myat Khin Yeik Thar Lane. The retired military officer said the helipad is intended for use by the security detail of Min Aung Hlaing and his family rather than for hospital patients.

It takes only a few minutes by speed boat to cross Inya Lake from Myat Khin Yeik Tha Lane to the helipad at the hospital, he said.

“It is not unusual for hospitals to have helicopter pads in foreign countries. But have you ever heard of any patient being carried by a chopper to hospital in Yangon?” said the retired military officer.

Inya Lake in Myanmar’s politics

Lakeside houses on Inya Lake are closely connected with Myanmar’s politics. The neighborhood near the Sin Phyu Shin staff quarters on Pyay Road has been used to house military officers since the Japanese occupation during WWII.

Myanmar independence hero General Aung San lived in a lakeside house at 6½ Mile while he was single, according to the book “I Am From Anyar [Central Myanmar]” by Bo Aung Gyi.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s 54 Residence is also a lakeside residence; her period of house arrest there was increased after US citizen John Yettaw swam across Inya Lake to the home in 2009.

The late military dictator General Ne Win’s former residence is also at Inya Lake, on Ady Road (since renamed May Kha). He died there under house arrest in 2002. The residence of Galon U Saw, who assassinated Gen. Aung San and his colleagues, is not far from General Ne Win’s house.

Aside from prominent leaders, only the wealthy elite of Myanmar society can afford to buy lakeside houses at Inya Lake. Firstly, they are worth millions of dollars. Secondly, it is not just about the money.

Min Aung Hlaing has abused his power to grab compounds on Inya Lake and Inya Road that are worth millions of dollars.

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