The Royal Thai Police have arrested an arms dealer to the Myanmar military regime suspected of trafficking drugs and money laundering.
Myanmar national Dr Tun Min Latt, 53, was arrested along with three Thai nationals in Bangkok last week. They face narcotics and money laundering charges. Over 200 million baht (US$5.4 million) worth of drugs and other items were confiscated from them, the Thai police said.
Dr. Tun Min Latt runs the Star Sapphire Group of companies, which brokered imports of Israeli reconnaissance drones and aircraft parts for the Myanmar Air Force, according to sources.
Star Sapphire Group is partnered with the military-owned business conglomerates — Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) — in numerous ventures, sources said.
A United Nations (UN) report on the military’s economic interests named Dr. Tun Min Latt as a significant shareholder in the Star Sapphire Group.
The UN report said that the group was one of 45 companies that made donations to the Myanmar military following the brutal 2017 clearance operations in Rakhine State that caused the exodus of over 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh, and led to accusations of genocide by the international community.
Dr. Tun Min Latt also brokered land-lease agreements between the Hong Kong-listed firm VPower and MEHL to run a liquefied natural gas power plant on military-owned land in Yangon’s Thanlyin Township, Nikkei Asia reported in May.
The deal was one of the projects put out to tender in 2019 by the now-ousted National League for Democracy government. The US$297 million, 350 megawatt plant in Thanlyin halted operations in July due to uncertainties over its commercial viability.
Dr. Tun Min Latt is the son of retired air force lieutenant colonel U Khin Maung Latt.
From 1996, U Khin Maung Latt served as director-general of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism under the previous military regime led by Senior General Than Shwe, according to a tour operator who asked for anonymity.
U Khin Maung Latt was known among tour operators as the longest-serving director-general of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, the tour operator added.
In partnership with Thai investors, Dr. Tun Min Latt runs several hotels in Tachileik, a city in Shan State on the border with Thailand that is infamous as a gambling and drugs hub.
Reuters reported that Dr. Tun Min Latt’s arrest is part of a broader Thai crackdown on money laundering in Tachileik.