Myanmar Junta Detains Yangon Commerce Minister and Mayor

By The Irrawaddy 24 March 2022

Myanmar’s junta has detained Yangon Region commerce minister U Aung Than Oo and Yangon Mayor U Bo Htay on Wednesday over the granting of land permits in the commercial capital.

U Aung Than Oo was detained for granting land at Thamada Beach in Dala Township to former chief of the general staff Hla Htay Win’s family, an officer in the Yangon Region government told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity.

“I heard that there was a problem regarding granting of land to the retired general and his family,” he said.

Mayor U Bo Htay was also detained as an accomplice along with the head of the land department from Yangon City Development Committee as U Aung Than Oo issued permits for U Hla Htay Win’s family to use farmland at the beach for other purposes.

Offspring of military leaders and family members of the military proxy’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) own land at Thamada Beach after they bought farmland and applied to use the land for other purposes. U Aung Than Oo as the commerce minister of Yangon Region issued land grants.

U Hla Htay Win was the chief of the military’s Yangon Command under the previous military regime. He was appointed the chief of the general staff after junta chief Min Aung Hlaing became commander-in-chief. He was forced to step down in 2015 to join the USDP to contest that year’s general election. He was elected to the Lower House for Zeyarthiri Township in Naypyitaw.

A former military officer said the arrest was the result of conflicts of interest between current Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) chairman former Lieutenant General Nyo Saw and cronies of ex-General Hla Htay Win.

“There has been a rivalry between Gen Nyo Saw’s group and the cronies of ex-Gen Hla Htay Win, the arrest of Ko Aung Than Oo and Ko Bo Htay means Gen Nyo Saw’s group has gained the upper hand,” he said.

Yangon Mayor U Bo Htay. / MRTV

Former Lt-Gen Nyo Saw served as the commandant of the Defense Services Technological Academy and the Defense Services Academy and held the central and southern commands. Even after his retirement as the quartermaster general, he remains the chairman of military-owned MEC, as an aide of Min Aung Hlaing.

U Bo Htay, who is also a former military officer, was appointed the head of the engineering department in the YCDC under the previous military regime. The officer retired in 2015 after he reached pension age. He was appointed Yangon mayor following last year’s coup.

U Aung Than Oo is the chairman of the Myanmar Rice Merchants Association and is a USDP member. He is known to be close with party vice-chair U Khin Yi, the former police chief who is now the regime’s immigration and population minister.

When U Khin Yi organized rallies targeting the Union Election Commission following its announcement of the National League for Democracy as the winner in the 2020 general election, U Aung Than Oo allegedly hired people to join the rallies, reportedly paying 5,000 kyats or more to each demonstrator.

U Aung Than Oo was elected for Thanlyin Township in Yangon at the 2010 general election but lost to NLD candidates in both 2015 and 2020.

“He has had good ties with generals since the previous military regime. He is closer to U Khin Yi. U Aung Than Oo organized [pro-military] rallies on behalf of U Khin Yi. He is the godfather of Swan Arr Shin [military-backed vigilante group] and 5,000-kyat wage earners,” a source told The Irrawaddy.

U Aung Than Oo also reportedly has close ties with generals from the former military regime, including former industry minister U Aung Thaung, ex-general U Myint Swe (who was vice-president under the NLD government and is now acting president) and former commerce minister and former chairman of Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry U Win Myint.

He runs Nine Sea Trading Co and Mya Shwe War Co, which exports rice. He is also the major rice supplier to the military, according to rice merchants.

When asked by The Irrawaddy about the pro-junta rallies that he reportedly organized on behalf of U Khin Yi, U Aung Than Oo said: “I had nothing to do with that.”

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