Friday, January 9, 2009

Did Than Shwe’s Grandson Kidnap Model?

The Irrawaddy News

The Rangoon rumor-mill is frequently active, but this might be the juiciest story for years—a soap opera-style plot involving Than Shwe’s grandson, a celebrity model, a jealous ex-boyfriend and a sordid kidnapping.

Sources close to Burmese celebrities told The Irrawaddy that rumors have spread like wildfire around Rangoon in the last two weeks that Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s favorite grandson, Nay Shwe Thway Aung, 17, helped a friend, Aung Myo, kidnap his ex-girlfriend, celebrity model Wut Hmone Shwe Yee (in turquoise).

The two allegedly abducted Wut Hmone Shwe Yee from an unknown location in mid-December and drove her to Nay Shwe Thway Aung’s house in Hlaing Thayar Township where they held her for three days.

The teenage model’s friends apparently attempted to contact her during that time but could not locate her.

According to tabloid journals in Rangoon, model Wut Hmone Shwe Yee is currently the girlfriend of Burmese Hip-Hop star Sai Sai Khan Hlaing. Last year, a YouTube video clip of Sai Sai Khan Hlaing and Wut Hmone Shwe Yee was popular among Burma’s young internet users.

Private journals and magazines in Burma were reportedly refused permission by the Burmese censorship board to publish photos of the model for at least a week in late December after rumors of her kidnapping spread, according to members of the journalist community in Rangoon.

Rangoon-based Weekly Eleven published an interview with Wut Hmone Shwe Yee in its December 31 edition. However, no mention of any abduction was made.

Sources in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy that Wut Hmone Shwe Yee has taken out a lawsuit against Aung Myo. Nay Shwe Thway Aung has reportedly provided a lawyer for his friend.

Wut Hmone Shwe Yee declined to comment on the issue when The Irrawaddy contacted her by phone on Thursday, saying she was too busy.

Nay Shwe Thway Aung is currently studying at Yangon Institute of Technology in Rangoon and is known to be Than Shwe’s first and favorite grandson. He has often appeared in Burma’s state-run media alongside his dictator-grandfather at state ceremonies and on trips.

However, Nay Shwe Thway Aung is no stranger to controversy. In October, reports circulated that he had used influence to get his girlfriend, model Nay Chi Lin Let (Left in white), enrolled in Institute of Medicine 1 in Rangoon.

Nay Shwe Thway Aung was also implicated in a drug scandal in Rangoon last May. Two of his friends, Burmese tycoon Maung Weik and a son of Lt-Gen Ye Myint, Aung Zaw Ye Myint, were arrested after a member of the Than Shwe family found some pills—thought to be ecstasy—on Nay Shwe Thway Aung’s person.

Maung Weik and Aung Zaw Ye Myint were charged with procuring and selling drugs.

Than Shwe’s son, Thant Zaw Shwe, was also at the center of a scandal in recent years when rumors spread that he was involved with certain Burmese celebrities and models.

This is not the first time a kidnapping plot has been associated with the families of Burma’s powerful military elite. In the late 1990s, rumors spread that Gen Ne Win’s favorite grandson, Kyaw Ne Win, and his friends had kidnapped Nandar Aye, a daughter of junta No 2 Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye.

A few years later, in early 2002, Ne Win’s grandsons and his son-in-law were arrested and charged with treason.

“Sometimes, government intelligence services produce rumors as tactics of psychological warfare,” said a journalist in Rangoon who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Sometimes rumors come from rival groups among the ruling hierarchies.”

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