Discovery of junta family assets in Thai raid prompts call for probe

A luxury condo deed and two bank books are among assets seized.
By Khin Khin Ei and Ye Kaung Myint Maung for RFA Burmese
2023.01.12
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Discovery of junta family assets in Thai raid prompts call for probe Military junta chief Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and his wife, Kyu Kyu Hla, visit a Buddhist monastery in Thailand in February 2018.
Myanmar military

Thai authorities arresting a Myanmar arms broker last year confiscated assets owned by the children of junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, a legal watchdog has learned, prompting calls for a probe into their ties and to block their access to Thailand’s financial system.

Arms broker Tun Min Latt, 53, and three of his associates were arrested in dawn raids in Bangkok on Sept. 17 and indicted on Dec. 13 on drug trafficking, money laundering and transnational organized crime charges, campaign group Justice for Myanmar said in a report released Wednesday. 

Following his arrest, police seized some U.S.$50 million worth of assets including cash, cars, luxury goods, and real estate, according to the seizure record.

Among the property titles confiscated by authorities was a four-bedroom condo in Bangkok’s trendy Belle Rama 9 district belonging to Min Aung Hlaing’s son, Aung Pyae Sone, the report said. Comparable condos in the area sell for close to U.S.$1 million. 

Also among the assets seized were two Siam Commercial Bank passbooks belonging to the junta leader’s daughter, Khin Thiri Thet Mon, Justice for Myanmar said.

Min Aung Hlaing – who has close personal ties to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha – and his two children are sanctioned by both the United States and Canada, in part due to the military regime’s violent repression of the country’s people since its Feb. 1, 2021 coup. 

Prayut Chan-o-cha, who himself seized power in a 2014 putsch, helps to prop up the junta through supporting Thai natural gas purchases from Myanmar.

Benefitted from crime proceeds?

Based on the findings in its report, Justice for Myanmar called on Thai authorities to investigate whether or not Min Aung Hlaing’s children have benefited from the proceeds of crime, and to block junta members, their families and enablers from accessing Thai banks and purchasing assets in Thailand.

Justice for Myanmar spokeswoman Yadanar Maung told RFA Burmese that the arrest of Tun Min Latt exposed for the first time that “members of Min Aung Hlaing’s family are hiding assets in Thailand, enabled by an alleged drug trafficker and money launderer.”

“Thai authorities should immediately seize the assets of Aung Pyae Sone and Khin Thiri Thet Mon and widen their investigation to them,” she said.

Thailand also needs to take steps to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for “war criminals” from Myanamr by blocking their access to Thai banks and property and freezing their assets, she said.

According to Justice for Myanmar, Tun Min Latt is a co-owner of a military-owned casino and has brokered arms while committing the crimes he stands accused of in Thailand. Meanwhile, the group said, junta family members are parking offshore the assets they’ve acquired through the military’s “genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

“Thailand and other governments must urgently block the transfer of stolen assets from Myanmar and close access to the international financial system for junta members and their families, or risk complicity in the junta’s international crimes and corruption,” the group said.

Attempts by RFA to reach junta Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment went unanswered on Wednesday. RFA-affiliated news service BenarNews was also unable to contact the spokesmen for the Royal Thai Police or the office of Prayut Chan-o-cha, despite multiple attempts to reach them by phone.

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The Belle Grand Rama 9 complex in Bangkok, Thailand, where Min Aung Hlaing’s son, Aung Pyae Sone, owns a condominium. The title deed was found in Tun Min Latt’s possession. Credit: Justice For Myanmar

Military rule will ‘only generate chaos’

Responding to Justice for Myanmar’s report, Charles Santiago, ASEAN Parliamentarian on Human Rights Chair and former member of parliament from Malaysia, said in a statement on Wednesday “it should not come as a big surprise” that Min Aung Hlaing and his relatives maintain ties with someone under investigation for drug trafficking and money laundering.

“Senior officers like Min Aung Hlaing not only plunder Myanmar’s natural resources paying close to no taxes, but are also involved in the narcotic trade, or at the very least turn a blind eye to it and are paid for doing so," he said.

Santiago said the junta “strongly resembles a criminal organization” and suggested that its generals staged their coup nearly two years ago as they knew that plundering the country would become increasingly difficult as democratic institutions became increasingly consolidated under a civilian government.

"ASEAN and the global community at large need to urgently wake up to these realities, and realize that a military regime in Myanmar can never guarantee stability, but only generate chaos, conflict and foster criminal activities that can easily spill over the country’s borders,” he said.

“The Thai authorities should conduct an investigation on the ties of Min Aung Hlaing and his family with the underworld, and make its findings public. If it is found that they have broken Thai laws, they should be charged in a Thai court."

‘Warm and cozy relationship’

Min Lwin Oo, a Burmese human rights lawyer based in Norway, welcomed Justice for Myanmar’s report and urged Thailand to take concrete action against people like Tun Min Latt, who he accused of laundering the junta’s ill-gotten gains, rather than issuing empty statements.

“I worry that the case could be delayed or lengthy, as the current Thai government and Min Aung Hlaing have a very warm and cozy relationship,” he warned.

Phil Robertson, Asia Deputy Director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said that the seizure of Min Aung Hlaing’s children’s assets in the condo of an alleged drug trafficker “tells you all you need to know about the kind of criminals that surround the SAC junta commander,” referring to the State Administrative Council – the official name of the military regime.

“Aung Pyae Sone and Khin Thiri Thet Mon's decision to invest their money in Thailand shows just how comfortable they are with the SAC junta appeasement policies of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and his military infused government, which bends over backwards to accommodate the wishes of the SAC junta leaders,” he told RFA in an interview.

Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.

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