Obama to Stay in Kempinski Hotel in Naypyidaw: Report

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 11 November 2014

NAYPYIDAW — During his visit to the Burmese capital Naypyidaw this week, US President Obama is expected to stay in a hotel managed by the Kempinski Hotel Group and owned by two Burmese conglomerates, a minister has told a local news outlet.

The Messenger News Journal on Monday reported the choice of accommodation by the president and attributed the information to Deputy Minister of Hotels and Tourism Sai Kyaw Ohn, who was quoted as saying, “Now they [US Secret Service] are solely taking care of the hotel’s security, so we don’t need to help them a lot. Security has been tightened.”

Obama is expected to arrive in Naypyidaw on Wednesday to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and East Asia summits, which Burma is hosting this year as Asean chair.

There was a heavy security presence around the hotel on Tuesday, but hotel management declined to confirm the report about the president’s visit when contacted by The Irrawaddy.

In August, the Switzerland-headquartered Kempinski Group announced it would open the 140-room, five-star Kempinski Hotel—reportedly the most expensive of all hotels in the capital—on time for the Asean meeting this week. At the time, hotel management said there were two rooms available with bullet proof glass that could accommodate visiting government leaders.

The Kempinski Hotel was built on 50-acre premises and funded by local conglomerates Kanbawza (KBZ) Group and Jewellery Luck Company, which have invested US$45 million total in its construction, taking 50 percent shares each.

KBZ Group owns one of Burma’s largest banks and also has business interests in the domestic airline industry; it was founded in the 1990s in the Shan State capital Taunggyi and is owned by Aung Ko Win. Jewellery Luck Company was founded in 1995 and has business interests in trade, hotels, timber logging and mining.

Unlike dozens of other Burmese firms, KBZ and Jewellery Luck are not on the US Treasury sanction list. US Secretary of State John Kerry caused a stir in August when his delegation booked into the Lake Garden Hotel, owned by blacklisted Zaw Zaw’s Max Myanmar group. The State Department said at the time that Kerry had done nothing wrong.

Kempinski is one of four international hotel chains in the capital. United States’ Hilton Hotels, Singapore’s Parkroyal and France’s Accor Group all opened luxury hotels in Naypyidaw in partnerships with local business conglomerates ahead of the Asean meeting.

Work on Burma’s new capital began about a decade ago on orders of the former military junta, which enlisted the help of the country’s tycoons to construct government buildings and hotels in the capital. To this day, the government encourages investment in the sprawling but largely empty city that is home to mostly government officials.