Unicef Defends Rangoon Office Rental

By The Irrawaddy 21 May 2014

RANGOON — The representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in Burma has claimed the agency got a “good deal” on its new Rangoon office, after it emerged that the agency is paying a large sum in rent to a former military official.

On Tuesday, The Irrawaddy published information from sources close to Unicef Myanmar that the agency is paying as much as US$90,000 per month to rent its compound in the up market Golden Valley neighborhood of Bahan Township. The property is owned by former Gen. Nyunt Tin, who served as minister of agriculture in Burma’s military regime.

Unicef has declined to respond to questions about the arrangement sent to its communications staff on Monday. But in a letter to the editor following the publication, Unicef representative to Burma Bertrand Bainvel said he wished to address “misconceptions that your readers may have.”

The letter did not address the details of Unicef’s office rental, but said the article “incorrectly implied that UNICEF has not been cautious or wise in its choice of office space in Yangon.”

Bainvel wrote that after it was asked to move its offices from Traders Hotel last year, the agency spent six months looking for a new location, a search which took in 25 properties in six Rangoon townships.

“Ultimately we chose a property in Bahan township that was both suitable and was offered to us at a very competitive rate. As noted in the article, market conditions for office accommodation are extremely difficult in Yangon and rents are extremely high,” the letter said.

“We believe that the rent we have negotiated is well under market rates. It is more than we want to pay, but a good deal none-the-less and the best we were able to find.”