Burma

Myanmar Junta Detains Crony Over Failed Building Project on Military-Owned Land 

By The Irrawaddy 24 March 2022

One of Myanmar’s most notorious cronies, U Khin Shwe, was arrested and sent to Yangon’s Insein Prison on Tuesday along with his son U Zay Thiha, following a conflict over a failed building development on military-owned land in Yangon. 

On Thursday, regime spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun confirmed that the junta is planning to take action against the pair. 

The Myanmar military and U Khin Shwe’s company Zaykabar have been in dispute over the project since 2018, when Zaykabar Company contracted the China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd to build a US$500 million high-rise project on land in Yangon’s Bahan Township leased from the military.

The company planned to develop the site with 12 buildings ranging in height from 382 to 412 feet in the compound of the now-defunct Myayeik Nyo Hotel.

However, the military shut down the project in May 2018 after the developer breached the memorandum of understanding signed with the military.

Zaykabar Co was ordered to halt the development and leave the site by November 30, 2019, which it did. 

The company appealed to the Ministry of Construction at the end of 2019 to continue implementation of the project, but the proposed development seems to have remained in limbo until this week’s detention of U Khin Shwe and his son.

The pair were arrested following a complaint filed by Lieutenant Colonel Aung Kyaw Moe of the Myanmar military’s Yangon Command over non-payment of rent for the land, for large-scale site preparation in partnership with a foreign company while a build-operate-transfer agreement had not yet been signed, and for the unauthorized demolition of four heritage buildings including a colonial-era mayor’s residence. 

They have been charged under Section 24 of the Protection and Preservation of Ancient Monuments Law. If convicted, they each face five to ten years in jail. A family member declined to comment about their arrest when asked by The Irrawaddy.

U Khin Shwe was a prominent crony during the previous military regime led by the dictator Senior General Than Shwe, He was known to be close to General Khin Nyunt, the former head of military intelligence and was business partner to a number of generals. That resulted in him being sanctioned by the United States government until October 2016.

His daughter is married to the son of former general and parliament speaker Thura U Shwe Mann, now the chairman of the Union Betterment Party. U Khin Shwe was a lawmaker representing the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party in parliament’s upper house between 2011 and 2016.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact representatives of Zaykabar Co for comment.  

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