Myanmar Junta Chief Hands Golden Triangle Resorts to Associates
By The Irrawaddy 28 February 2022
Myanmar’s regime leader Min Aung Hlaing has handed his associates a hotel and casino in the Shan State border town of Tachileik in the Golden Triangle drug and gambling hotspot.
Min Aung Hlaing’s son and one of his wife’s former school pupils are rumored to have been handed the Golden Triangle Mountain Resort and Regina Resort, which has a casino and golf course, during the dictator’s trip to Kengtung, Shan State, in mid-February, a businessman told The Irrawaddy. Both properties are on military-controlled land and Regina has the only golf course in Tachileik.
Min Aung Hlaing’s son Aung Pyae Sone and U Aung Myo Min Din, a hotelier who reportedly has close ties to the regime leader, will operate the firms, the source said.
U Aung Myo Min Din was taught by Min Aung Hlaing’s wife, Daw Kyu Kyu Hla, at high school and has been granted a chain of premier hotels and resorts since Min Aung Hlaing became commander-in-chief in 2011.
The regime confiscated the businesses from a Thai company after its coup last year and ordered that they be handed over by the end of last month. The Thai company had a 30-year lease for the firms which was not due to expire for eight years.
“No hotel can be run in Tachileik without the approval of the military. Most of the owners are only nominally in charge [as the real owners are generals],” the source told The Irrawaddy.
Min Aung Hlaing used to be chief of Triangle Region Command in eastern Shan State, which is based in Kengtung.
The source suggested U Bo Lay, the owner of the company, UBL, and a key crony in Tachileik, is expected to act as a frontman for the generals to operate the two businesses. U Bo Lay is a long-term member of the Tachileik Township Border Committee.
“U Bo Lay is known to have deep military ties over decades. Their interests are inextricably interwoven with almost every business,” said the source.
A different source from Tachileik told The Irrawaddy that numerous cronies would like to take over the operations but U Bo Lay will probably be given the opportunity because of his close ties to the Triangle Region Command.
“The Thai company also holds the permit to operate the Shan Yoma department store. But it only focused on the Regina casino and golf course and does not operate the department store. The Tachileik business community is unhappy about it and this might have played a part in revoking the Thai license,” said the source.
Tachileik business leaders want to run the department store as the Thai company only runs the resort and they might have urged the regime to seize the businesses, including the resort and department store, from the Thai company, the source said.
Shan Yoma is a major shopping emporium in central Tachileik.
During his Kengtung trip, Min Aung Hlaing attended a ceremony to build a replica of Kengtung Palace.
The Kengtung Palace was built by Sao Kawn Kiao Intaleng, the 40th saopha (hereditary chief) of Kengtung, and completed in 1906. It was seized by the military during its 1962 coup and used as an office until its demolition in 1991 to make way for a hotel.
Over the years the hotel occasionally changed hands between those with ties to top generals. In 2015 it was taken over by U Aung Myo Min Din and rebranded as the Amazing Keng Tong Resort.
The replica palace will be built by the resort.
Min Aung Hlaing and Aung Pyae Sone attended a ceremony to mark the 100-year anniversary of Maha Myat Muni Buddha in Kengtung. The ceremony was attended by Hotel Tachileik owner U Tun Nay Oo, San Phyo Lin owner U Ar T, 1 G1 Hotel owner U Aung Naing, UBL owner U Bo Lay, Min Aung Hlaing’s former personal staff officer U Lin Zaw Tun, Mya Thaha Hospital owner U Tin Hlaing and Golden Triangle Regional News owner Ko Tun Mongpyat and many other business chiefs.
Gambling has been rampant in Tachileik since the coup last year, mostly operated by Chinese citizens who hire hotels. It also hosts online gambling operations.
Ethnic Wa businessmen, backed by the powerful United Wa State Army, operate numerous hotels and casinos in Tachileik along with hotels run by junta-linked militias and military-operating hotels.
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