The son of Myanmar junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is planning to import oil from Russia, the regime’s major arms supplier.
Min Aung Hlaing’s son U Aung Pyae Sone, Shwe Byain Phyu Group of Companies (SBP) owner U Thein Win Zaw, Lucky Star Jade Company owner U Aung Myint and a few other businessmen will form a venture to import and distribute fuel from Russia.
U Aung Pyae Sone and cronies are inviting local oil importers to join their venture, oil industry sources told The Irrawaddy.
“They will establish a new company and monopolize the market,” said one oil importer.
Sources told The Irrawaddy that U Aung Pyae Sone and his partners will fly to Russia soon to discuss the details for importing oil.
SBP, founded in 1996, has interests in gas stations and gem mining. U Thein Win Zaw supplies fuel to the Myanmar navy and is also a director of the Mahar Yoma Public Company, part of a consortium that has a stake in the military-owned telecom operator Mytel.
The Investcom PTE Ltd, which in March bought Norwegian telecom firm Telenor’s operation in Myanmar, is a joint venture between SBP and the Lebanese investment company M1 Group, owned by Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Min Aung Hlaing’s daughter Khin Thiri Thet Mon has a stake in SBP that will eventually control 80 per cent of Telenor’s operation, three sources told The Irrawaddy.
U Aung Myint, an ethnic Chinese man who is also known as Xiong Fu, is a wealthy jade businessman and a friend of SBP owner U Thein Win Zaw, a gem stone business owner told The Irrawaddy.
“Perhaps U Aung Myint has been invited to join their company because he is rich. U Aung Myint used to import fuel before,” said the business owner.
Lucky Star Jade Company operates hundreds of acres of jade mines either independently or in partnership with other companies in Lone Khin in the Kachin State jade mining hub Hpakant.
Myat Myittar Mon Petrol Group owned by Dr. Win Myint, the secretary of the Myanmar Petroleum Trade Association, will also join U Aung Pyae Sone’s company, sources told The Irrawaddy.
Dr. Win Myint denied involvement in U Aung Pyae Sone’s venture, when asked by The Irrawaddy. “I am abroad. I know nothing about that yet,” he said.
Middlemen have previously attempted to organize for Myanmar companies to import fuel from Russia, but deals were never reached when consignment details were discussed, said a manager of a local fuel company.
Myanmar mostly imports oil from Singapore. Although Russian oil will be cheaper, Myanmar will have to pay higher transportation costs and the country still lacks the necessary infrastructure to import large-scale amounts of oil, including ports where oil tankers with a 100,000-ton capacity are able to dock. So the coup leader’s son’s plan will not be as easy as it seems, said fuel importers.
Notorious arms broker U Tay Za, whose ties with the current military regime, and previous ones, are known to be deep, is the chairperson of the Myanmar Petroleum Trade Association. It remains unclear if he is involved in U Aung Pyae Sone’s company. U Tay Za, the founder and chairman of the Htoo Group of Companies, has previously helped the Myanmar military purchase arms and aircraft from Russia.
The news of U Aung Pyae Sone forming a fuel import company emerged as the junta continues to control imports including oil and is putting pressure on fuel companies to sell at fixed prices, because of the country’s declining reserves of US dollars.
From June 15 to 18, five ministers of the Myanmar regime attended the 25th International Economic Forum held in St. Petersburg, Russia and sought help from Moscow to resolve Myanmar’s fuel and electricity crisis.
Junta-appointed foreign economic relations Minister U Aung Naing Oo invited a Russian energy company to invest in the country’s energy sector, while Minister for Electricity and Energy U Thaung Han held talks with Russian government officials and businessmen on setting up electricity production ventures in Myanmar.