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How family of a Myanmar junta leader are trying to cash in

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Special report from Reuters

Air Force chief Maung Maung Kyaw is a key member of the junta that overthrew Burmese democracy earlier this year. His son and nephew are part of a young generation of military families with wide-ranging business interests, including supplying the armed forces.


A week after the Burmese military seized power, a Twitter account that had lain dormant for nearly a decade flickered back into life.

The Twitter user mocked anti-coup protesters, hundreds of whom have been killed in a crackdown by security forces since the Feb. 1 coup. After a police truck fired high-pressure water cannons on demonstrators in the capital city of Naypyidaw on Feb. 8, he made a trolling reference to the nation’s traditional April new year celebration: “Water festival come earlier for them lol.”

A few weeks later, the user wrote “#fuckthereds,” making a dismissive reference to the political party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize-winning civilian leader who had been overthrown and arrested in the coup.

A review of an archived version of the account, which has since been shut down, revealed the username was a pseudonym belonging to Ivan Htet, the 33-year-old son of a leading figure in the coup: the chief of the air force, Maung Maung Kyaw.

But Ivan Htet hasn’t just been an enthusiastic supporter on social media of the Tatmadaw, the name for the Burmese military, which has dominated political life since independence in 1948 for Myanmar, then called Burma. He is also trying to cash in, helping equip the military, along with his wife Lin Lett Thiri, who co-founded a private firm to supply Myanmar’s armed forces, Reuters has found.

Corporate filings and a military procurement document reviewed by Reuters, as well as interviews with friends and associates of the family and with five defence contractors, show that the couple are part of a young generation of military families with business interests across the economy.

Besides his son and daughter-in-law, the air force chief’s nephew and niece have also prospered: They own a company that supplies the country’s aviation sector, corporate filings and media interviews show. Two defence contractors, a business associate and a former Myanmar airline executive told Reuters that the nephew was also involved in deals to supply the armed forces.

Maung Maung Kyaw, 57, was promoted to head the air force in 2018 and has presided over a modernisation program, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on upgrading aircraft used to support a military that for decades has been accused of human rights abuses. These included mass killings in 2017 of the Rohingya Muslim minority with “genocidal intent,” according to United Nations investigators. The military has denied this, saying it was waging a legitimate campaign against militants who attacked police.

Continues with photos


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