Myanmar junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s exclusive residence at No. 14 Inya Road has become the most wanted house in Yangon’s property market.
In late April, the civilian National Unity Government’s (NUG) Ministry of Planning and Finance announced that it would reclaim houses and other properties acquired by junta leaders, including Min Aung Hlaing, and sell shares in them to raise money for the ongoing revolution against the military regime.
Earlier this month, the NUG launched the scheme starting with Min Aung Hlaing’s Yangon mansion in the Inya Lake neighborhood, the most affluent area in the commercial capital.
Known as 14 Inya, the residence sits on a 1.86 acre (0.75 hectare) plot. The NUG is offering it for sale for US$10 million, a third of its estimated market value of US$30 million.
The residence, which was previously a military guesthouse, was acquired by Min Aung Hlaing before he seized power in last year’s coup. It stands as a showcase of the coup leader’s corruption and greed.
Inya Road is famous in Myanmar because of its location close to Inya Lake, Yangon University, and the Golden Valley neighborhood, the traditional home of Yangon’s rich.
Prior to Min Aung Hlaing taking possession, 14 Inya was a military-owned property commonly referred to as the ‘military intelligence guesthouse’, a place where the generals received foreign diplomats and the leaders of ethnic armed organizations.
In the 1990s, the feared former military spy chief Khin Nyunt liked to celebrate the Thingyan Water Festival at the guesthouse. The then junta leader Than Shwe and his deputy Maung Aye were often present at festival celebrations held there.
State dinners for VIPs were often hosted on the lawn of the residence. One of the most prominent figures who visited the mansion was the late leader of the Karen National Union (KNU) General Saw Bo Mya, better known as Bo Mya, who held talks with Khin Nyunt there. In 2002, the then regime leadership of Than Shwe and Maung Aye met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at 14 Inya, along with intelligence chief Khin Nyunt.
Notorious Golden Triangle drug lord Khun Sa was hidden in a compound at the back of 14 Inya when Washington offered a reward for his arrest.
Many generals were unhappy when Min Aung Hlaing took over the property. His possession of 14 Inya is frequently raised when military officers gossip about the corruption and greed of Min Aung Hlaing and his family.
Previous military chiefs did not live at 14 Inya, Senior General Saw Maung, the army chief after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, lived at a residence near Dagon Housing on Alanpya Pagoda Road, the former site of the army office, in downtown Yangon.
He was placed under house arrest there after being purged.
Once Than Shwe became junta chief, he relocated the army office to Kone Myint Thar at 8 Mile on Pyay Road, the former home of the Burma Socialist Programme Party.
Though Than Shwe had his own house in Shwe Hninzi Street at 9 Mile, he moved to live at the army office. He arranged for Maung Aye and Khin Kyunt to live near him.
In 2006, Than Shwe moved the military office from Yangon to Naypyitaw. Before Min Aung Hlaing became the army chief, he has his own house at Kyaik Wyne Pagoda Road, which is not far from Kone Myint Thar.
Min Aung Hlaing then unexpectedly succeeded Than Shwe as Commander-in-Chief and, sometime around 2011 or 2012, took possession of 14 Inya. How he did so remains unclear.
One retired Lieutenant General said that it was Than Shwe who allowed him to buy the residence in 2011 at a price much lower than the market rate, transferring the ownership from the military to Min Aung Hlaing. Other sources say that Min Aung Hlaing seized ownership of the property in 2012 during the time of U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government.
The then Yangon Region Chief Minister Myint Swe may also have helped Min Aung Hlaing acquire the property. The pair have close links, with former Lieutenant General Myint Shwe acting as Min Aung Hlaing’s accomplice in his coup.
In 2012, Min Aung Hlaing tried to nominate Myint Swe as vice-president after Tin Aung Mying Oo resigned. But he was barred from becoming the vice-president by Section 59(f) of the military-drafted constitution, the same article which barred Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president, and Navy chief Admiral Nyan Tun became the vice-president instead.
Myint Swe was, however, nominated by the military as a vice-president under the National League for Democracy government after the question of whether he violated Section 59(j) was settled.
Min Aung Hlaing’s acquisition of 14 Inya was not publicly known for several years. Some generals who knew about it were unhappy, but have never dared to complain in public.
Now, 14 Inya is known around the world just like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s nearby residence at No. 54 University Avenue Road.
But her house is famous as the residence of a brave woman politician who lived there under house arrest for many years. In contrast, 14 Inya is a showcase for the greed of a disgraceful general.
(Stay tuned for The Irrawaddy’s upcoming reports on Min Aung Hlaing’s other properties)