Contrary to his denial of close ties with recently arrested Myanmar regime arms broker Dr. Tun Min Latt, findings released by a covert group tracking regime-linked businesses reveal that Thai Senator Upakit Pachariyangkun is deeply involved with the broker in ways that have profited the Myanmar military.
Myanmar national Tun Min Latt runs the Star Sapphire Group of companies, which brokered imports of Israeli reconnaissance drones and aircraft parts for the Myanmar Air Force. He was arrested in Bangkok last week on suspicion of trafficking drugs and money laundering.
He was arrested along with three Thais. One of them is Dean Young Gultula, Upakit’s son-in-law.
Upakit and Tun Min Latt founded Myanmar Allure Group in 2000 to operate an illegal casino business in Myanmar’s Tachileik, a border town in Shan State near Thailand, according to OpenCorporates. Tun Min Latt’s Star Sapphire built the casino, according to the findings of the covert group Justice For Myanmar (JFM), which cited an archive of the company’s website.
Upakit opened the Allure Resort and Casino under Myanmar’s previous military dictatorship, signing an agreement in 1999 with Khin Maung Latt, Tun Min Latt’s father, who was at that time the then-military regime’s director general of hotels and tourism.
The casino, Allure Resort, was built on the site of the state-owned Shan Yoma Guest House, on about 2 hectares of prime riverfront land, and opened in 2003.
The original agreement specified an annual lease payment to the military-controlled Directorate of Hotels and Tourism of US$120,000, or 6 percent of total gross revenue.
While casinos were illegal, the 1999 contract between the military junta and Allure Group specifies that the resort was to include “electric and electronic machines, slot machines, and all sort of recreation and entertainment”.
According to Myanmar Investment Commission documents released by Distributed Denial of Secrets, a whistleblower website, a new deed was signed in which the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism transferred all rights, titles and interests in the casino to the Myanmar Army’s Office of the Quartermaster General in November 2017, during the National League for Democracy government. Upakit signed the 2017 contract as chairperson of Allure Group.
According to the new contract, the Myanmar military got the 6 percent share of the casino’s revenue. The new lease allows the Myanmar military and Allure Group to hide the payments from parliamentary and auditor general scrutiny, under a system designed to protect the military’s business interests.
Myanmar’s corporate register shows Upakit resigned from the board of Myanmar Allure in 2019 and sold his shares to join the Senate, appointed by Thailand’s then military junta. But he replaced himself with his son-in-law, Dean Young Gultula, the husband of Adisara Gultula, the senator’s daughter, JFM said.
However, Upakit told The Bangkok Post that he owned a hotel business in the border town of Tachileik but sold it in 2015 before he was appointed a senator.
Adisara is Upakit’s daughter with his ex-wife, Pareena Kaikupt, the barred Ratchaburi MP and outspoken supporter of suspended Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
JFM said Upakit has profited from corruption and operated an illegal casino business, colluding to transfer it to the Myanmar military in an act that amounts to the theft of public assets.
“Through his partnership with Dr. Tun Min Latt and his father, Upakit Pachariyangkun has provided revenue to finance the Myanmar military’s atrocity crimes against the people of Myanmar, making him complicit in those crimes,” it said.
Furthermore, Upakit and Tun Min Latt were both directors of Andaman Power and Utility Company Limited (formerly Dawei Power and Utility Company Limited). An archive of the Andaman Power website described Upakit as “Chairman and Founder”.
Andaman Power and Utility claimed to have been designated by the former USDP-led military proxy government as the sole power provider in the Dawei area, the site of a controversial special economic zone and deep sea port project, despite the company’s lack of experience in the energy sector.
United Power of Asia’s majority-owned Myanmar subsidiary, Myanmar UPA, is registered at a Star Sapphire address in Naypyitaw.
According to Thailand’s company registry, Tun Min Latt is currently the sole shareholder of Myanmar Allure Group (P&E), registered in Mae Sai, a Thai town across the river from Tachileik. An archive of the Andaman Power & Utility website states that the company supplied electricity to Tachileik and had an office in Chiang Rai, the northern Thai province that includes Mae Sai.
JFM’s findings also reveal Tun Min Latt has direct access to regime leader Min Aung Hlaing and is the Myanmar agent of arms manufacturer NORINCO, which provides armoured personnel carriers, 100-mm guns and other arms to the Myanmar military.