Burma

Meet the Front Man for Myanmar Junta Chief’s Family Businesses

By The Irrawaddy 23 August 2022

When Myanmar’s military regime formed a new committee to import fuel from Russia, the junta’s major arms supplier, earlier this month, there was an unfamiliar name on the committee: U Maung Maung Naing, the chief executive officer of Yetagon Energy Co. Who is he?

U Maung Maung Naing, 45, fronts the businesses of Aung Pyae Sone, the son of regime leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, according to business sources. He is also a regular golf partner of Min Aung Hlaing.

An ethnic Chinese Myanmar citizen, U Maung Maung Naing started to amass wealth soon after Min Aung Hlaing became the military chief in 2011. Prior to then, under the previous junta, he worked at a tyre shop owned by his uncle in Myaynigon, one of Yangon’s busiest neighborhoods.

Lucky Man tyre shop.

Military-linked cronies, especially from timber companies, were regular customers at the tyre shop, enabling U Maung Maung Naing to make connections. He soon opened his own tyre shop called Lucky Man.

He became acquainted with Min Aung Hlaing after the latter was promoted to a regional commander. When Min Aung Hlaing became the head of the military, U Maung Maung Naing partnered with Min Aung Hlaing’s son, Aung Pyae Sone, to supply tyres to the military and construction companies.

In April 2013, U Maung Maung Naing established Sky One Construction Co. Aung Pyae Sone is on the board of directors of the company, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.

“When U Maung Maung Naing takes a flight, the military security affairs personnel at the airport have to welcome him. And he can visit any commander and any authority figure. No one dares to turn him down as everyone knows he is Aung Pyae Sone’s front man. These days, he wins all the contracts for the construction of military-linked projects,” said a businessman who wished to remain anonymous.

Sky One won the contracts to build a new ward at the military hospital in Yangon’s Mingaladon Township, to construct a media center for the regime’s mouthpiece Myawaddy TV in the compound of the military records office, and to build the private Moe Kaung Treasure Maternal and Child Hospital, which is owned by Min Aung Hlaing’s family and is also inside the military records office compound.

The company has also won contracts to expand two military air bases, Cocogyun and Hmawbi, in Yangon Region.

Business sources said that Sky One makes huge profits from military-linked projects, as the Myanmar military pays the prices quoted by the company.

The Azura Beach Resort at Chaungtha Beach in Ayeyarwady Region was leased out to Aung Pyae Sone under the U Thein Sein government. But according to the lease agreement seen by The Irrawaddy, the lessee is U Maung Maung Naing.

“He fronts nearly all the businesses owned by Min Aung Hlaing. And they have engaged in several businesses linked with [military-owned] Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) lately,” said one businessman.

Min Aung Hlaing and his family.

Until last year’s coup, Sky One Construction Co. mainly engaged in import and military-linked construction projects. But since the military takeover, it has expanded its interests to include telecom, energy and other businesses linked to the MEC.

U Maung Maung Naing also has close ties with former Lieutenant General Nyo Saw, a trusted aide of Min Aung Hlaing.

Nyo Saw retired as the military’s quartermaster general in 2020, but is still the MEC chairman and sits on the boards of the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd and Inwa Bank.

As the man who manages the military’s businesses, Nyo Saw plays a key role in financing the junta. He has also been named as the chair of the committee which will oversee the importation of fuel from Russia, of which U Maung Maung Naing is a member.

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