Saturday, December 27, 2008

Canada-based Party Linked to Controversial Businessman

The Irrawaddy News

Burmese exiles were surprised to learn through an Internet newsgroup recently that the former chairman of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) has joined a new political party linked to a Canada-based businessman accused in the past of laundering drug profits for the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

According to widely read email messages circulating among Burmese exiles, former ABSDF chairman Htun Aung Gyaw recently joined the United Democratic Party of Myanmar (UDP), founded in Vancouver, Canada.

In response to the rumors, which include allegations that Htun Aung Gyaw, who is currently living in the United States, received US $50,000 to join the UDP, the party issued a statement saying that discussions between party leaders and the former ABSDF chairman were still at the “confidence-building” stage.

But the reports have raised further questions about the UDP itself. Burmese exiles living in Canada and the US say they don’t know what the party’s objectives are, and many wonder about the motives of the man seen as the driving force behind the party.

According to Burmese opposition sources in Canada, the UDP has no chanirman, but is led by well-known Burmese businessman Kyaw Myint, a.k.a. Michael Hu Hwa.

Kyaw Myint’s company, NAH Development Group Inc, is involved in “energy, mineral, agriculture, building materials, finance and real estate industries,” according to its Web site, The site also provides a contact address in Vancouver.

A former colonel in the UWSA—a group named by the US State Department as “the world’s largest armed narcotics-trafficking organization”—Kyaw Myint is a familiar name in Burmese business circles.

After the UWSA reached a ceasefire agreement with Burma’s ruling military junta in 1991, Kyaw Myint became the head of Myanmar Kyone Yeom Group, a Rangoon-based company with extensive interests in construction, mining, real estate and forestry.

In an article published by the now-defunct Asiaweek magazine in January 1998, Myanmar Kyone Yeom was accused of acting as a “money-washing machine” for the UWSA.

According to an article published in Jane’s Intelligence Review in November 1998, the company was blacklisted by the Burmese regime because “Michael Hu Hwa (a.k.a. Colonel Kyaw Myint), who claimed to be a deputy minister of finance for the UWSA, openly and brazenly flouted Burmese business laws and regulations.”

Soon after, the company was shut down and Kyaw Myint was imprisoned. He did not stay in prison for long, however, as he received help from some influential intelligence officers.

Kyaw Myint left Burma and appeared in Bangkok in 1999. From there, he relocated to the United States and then Canada—a move reportedly arranged by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

He later set up United Democratic Party of Myanmar and began to recruit young activists, who received stipends and allowances, according to exiled Burmese sources in Vancouver. Kyaw Myint also reportedly financed some Burma-related conferences in Canada.

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