[QODLink]
In Pictures
In Pictures: Myanmar's 'crony capitalists'
In a new era of foreign investment, analysts are split on what role elites connected to the military junta should play.
Last updated: 27 Jan 2014 06:50
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

For much of the world, Myanmar is considered to be in the process of transforming from pariah to pet project.

Following half a century of Western isolation, Myanmar voted in a government of retired generals two years ago, heralding radical economic and political reforms. 

Most observers agree the government is creeping towards more transparent and democratic rule, but there remains a debate of whether Western economic sanctions helped or hindered the reform and whether outstanding sanctions are an effective diplomatic tool. 

In 2010, the government ended pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest and began releasing hundreds of political prisoners.

As a result, the West suspended or lifted most of their trade and economic sanctions, opening the door to bargain-hunting frontier investors. 

Still, the US maintains sanctions against a number of favoured Myanmar tycoons who allegedly grew rich through corruption and their close ties to the old regime. 

In December the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) agreed to pay US authorities $133m to settle sanctions violations in four countries including Myanmar, where it processed 46 wire transfers totalling around $376,000. 

As the political and economic landscape shifts, the cronies have tried to rebrand themselves as potential local partners for foreign businesses. 

Human rights groups argue the US needs to maintain pressure against the Myanmar government to ensure the reformers don't backslide. 

"Despite holding by-elections and taking other positive steps, the government has yet to institute the reforms necessary to move Burma toward democracy, and basic political power remains with the military," New York-based Human Rights Watch said in an open letter to President Obama in November. "It is imperative for the United States to retain its leverage until real reform occurs." 

But others say the sanctions were a knee-jerk moral response to the cruelty and indifference of the Myanmar state towards its citizens, and not an effective use of the diplomatic toolbox. 

They say the real trigger of reform in Myanmar was an internal recognition that the era of superstitious and paranoid governance was outdated, combined with fears of encroaching economic domination by resource-hungry China. 

The remaining sanctions, the pragmatists argue, could be retarding economic growth and job creation because those with a murky history also have much-needed capital and market knowledge. 

"Sanctions were ineffective at best, and counterproductive at worst," says Richard Horsey, a political analyst. "The cronies made their millions at the expense of the country but, putting aside the moral argument, they're now well-placed to help the economy grow. Some of the cronies are the biggest tax-payers in the country." 

Corruption and sanctions are abstract concepts rarely captured visually, but Al Jazeera attempted to meet some of the alleged crony capitalists. 


/Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

Graffiti shows a washing machine laundering money for three banks owned by so-called cronies. Aung Ko Win, a close associate of the former junta's number two, owns KBZ Bank, KBZ airlines and founded Kanbawza United Football Club. AGD, or Asia Green Development Bank, is part of a sprawling empire run Tay Zar, by far Myanmar's most infamous alleged crony, who also founded the Yangon United Football Club. Serge Pun, worth $500m according to Forbes Asia, founded Yoma bank in 1993 and is now CEO of Yoma Strategic Holdings, a Singapore listed outfit with interests in real estate, agribusiness, trading and automobile services.



/Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

Despite calling owner Tay Zar "Burma's number one crony businessman", the US eased sanctions on AGD Bank earlier this year to allow American companies to import and transfer money in Myanmar, highlighting the problems of applying sanctions selectively. The leaked US diplomatic cables say Tay Zar has brokered arms sales with Russia in the past, accusations he denies. Tay Zar has a passion for decadence but, following a helicopter crash in 2011, partially retired and rebranded himself as a self styled philanthropist. His glass fronted garage boasts a harem of luxury cars including a Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls Royce and Lamborghini.



/Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

The sparkling FMI shopping centre is popular amongst tourists and locals for its overpriced lattes and luxury hand bags. It's a joint venture between Parkson Retail Asia Limited and a subsidiary of Serge Pun's Yoma conglomerate. Prior to the easing of car import restrictions, Pun gained a 10 percent stake in a company producing Suzuki vehicles. These automobiles competed with locally produced "Franken cars" devices built on a handmade chassis dripping with a hodgepodge of imported spare parts from Asia, modified to fit the vehicle. Initially selling for up to $15,000, rusting unbranded Jeeps still roam the streets of Yangon.



/Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

Cranes rest on the banks of a river in Yangon. The port is part of the Asia World business leviathan owned by Stephen Law, the son of alleged drug kingpin Lo Hsing Han who the US called the "Godfather of Heroin". In recent years Stephen Law has lost favour in government circles because of his close links with China, analysts say. Asia World is a conduit for much of China's investment, including a deeply unpopular joint venture to build the Myitsone hydroelectric dam. In a sign of nascent democratic stirrings and a diplomatic lurch away from China, the project was suspended because of public pressure in 2011.



/Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

Toy Santa Claus figures hang in the lobby of Junction Square, the largest shopping mall in Yangon, whose food court, counterfeit fashion boutiques and cinema are stuffed with coiffured teenagers. It was built by Shwe Taung Group, headed by Aung Zaw Naing and his illustrious father Aik Htun, who has battled US accusations of narcotics trafficking and money laundering



/Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
A grey blue monolith on the Yangon skyline, the 366 room Novotel Hotel is being built by construction tycoon Zaw Zaw, managing director of Max Myanmar. He amassed his fortune importing used cars and motorcycles. More recently he built the ghostly 20 lane highways in the nation's new and broadly uninhabited capital, Nay Pyi Taw, to garner favour within the regime, according to the US cables. He also has interests in jade mining and logging.


/Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
A 20ft concrete dinosaur pokes through the foliage at Kendawgyi palace hotel, one of many hotels and resorts owned by Tay Zar.


/Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

Tshirts of pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for sale alongside her father Aung San, who lead the charge for independence from Britain. In a bid to cultivate a new image, Myanmar's crony capitalists have sought to curry favour with Suu Kyi. Tay Zar donated $81,000 to an education scheme run by Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy party. In 2011 she was photographed attending a football match alongside Zaw Zaw, a signal of realpolitik from them both.



/Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

A couple watch a baby elephant play with water in Yangon Zoological Gardens, which received a makeover in 2011 thanks to a $14.5 million donation by the Htoo Foundation, the philanthropic wing of Tay Zar's Htoo empire. Tay Zar also chairs the Myanmar Football Federation which launched a league of eight teams in 2009, each owned by regime cronies. The US cables cite a "well connected source" suggesting the league was established by the former President as an alternative to buying Manchester United for $1bn.




Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
images:
/mritems/images/2014/1/17/2014117122431300364_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/1/17/2014117122431456561_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/1/17/2014117122431597500_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/1/17/2014117122431738450_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/1/17/2014117122431878586_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/1/17/201411712243281497_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/1/17/2014117122432238253_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/1/17/2014117122432409692_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/1/17/2014117122432581912_8.jpg
captions:

Graffiti shows a washing machine laundering money for three banks owned by so-called cronies. Aung Ko Win, a close associate of the former junta(***)s number two, owns KBZ Bank, KBZ airlines and founded Kanbawza United Football Club. AGD, or Asia Green Development Bank, is part of a sprawling empire run Tay Zar, by far Myanmar(***)s most infamous alleged crony, who also founded the Yangon United Football Club. Serge Pun, worth $500m according to Forbes Asia, founded Yoma bank in 1993 and is now CEO of Yoma Strategic Holdings, a Singapore listed outfit with interests in real estate, agribusiness, trading and automobile services.

;*;

Despite calling owner Tay Zar "Burma(***)s number one crony businessman", the US eased sanctions on AGD Bank earlier this year to allow American companies to import and transfer money in Myanmar, highlighting the problems of applying sanctions selectively. The leaked US diplomatic cables say Tay Zar has brokered arms sales with Russia in the past, accusations he denies. Tay Zar has a passion for decadence but, following a helicopter crash in 2011, partially retired and rebranded himself as a self styled philanthropist. His glass fronted garage boasts a harem of luxury cars including a Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls Royce and Lamborghini.

;*;

The sparkling FMI shopping centre is popular amongst tourists and locals for its overpriced lattes and luxury hand bags. It\(***)s a joint venture between Parkson Retail Asia Limited and a subsidiary of Serge Pun(***)s Yoma conglomerate. Prior to the easing of car import restrictions, Pun gained a 10 percent stake in a company producing Suzuki vehicles. These automobiles competed with locally produced "Franken cars" devices built on a handmade chassis dripping with a hodgepodge of imported spare parts from Asia, modified to fit the vehicle. Initially selling for up to $15,000, rusting unbranded Jeeps still roam the streets of Yangon.

;*;

Cranes rest on the banks of a river in Yangon. The port is part of the Asia World business leviathan owned by Stephen Law, the son of alleged drug kingpin Lo Hsing Han who the US called the "Godfather of Heroin". In recent years Stephen Law has lost favour in government circles because of his close links with China, analysts say. Asia World is a conduit for much of China(***)s investment, including a deeply unpopular joint venture to build the Myitsone hydroelectric dam. In a sign of nascent democratic stirrings and a diplomatic lurch away from China, the project was suspended because of public pressure in 2011.

;*;

Toy Santa Claus figures hang in the lobby of Junction Square, the largest shopping mall in Yangon, whose food court, counterfeit fashion boutiques and cinema are stuffed with coiffured teenagers. It was built by Shwe Taung Group, headed by Aung Zaw Naing and his illustrious father Aik Htun, who has battled US accusations of narcotics trafficking and money laundering

;*;A grey blue monolith on the Yangon skyline, the 366 room Novotel Hotel is being built by construction tycoon Zaw Zaw, managing director of Max Myanmar. He amassed his fortune importing used cars and motorcycles. More recently he built the ghostly 20 lane highways in the nation\(***)s new and broadly uninhabited capital, Nay Pyi Taw, to garner favour within the regime, according to the US cables. He also has interests in jade mining and logging.;*;A 20ft concrete dinosaur pokes through the foliage at Kendawgyi palace hotel, one of many hotels and resorts owned by Tay Zar.;*;

Tshirts of pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for sale alongside her father Aung San, who lead the charge for independence from Britain. In a bid to cultivate a new image, Myanmar\(***)s crony capitalists have sought to curry favour with Suu Kyi. Tay Zar donated $81,000 to an education scheme run by Suu Kyi(***)s opposition National League for Democracy party. In 2011 she was photographed attending a football match alongside Zaw Zaw, a signal of realpolitik from them both.

;*;

A couple watch a baby elephant play with water in Yangon Zoological Gardens, which received a makeover in 2011 thanks to a $14.5 million donation by the Htoo Foundation, the philanthropic wing of Tay Zar\(***)s Htoo empire. Tay Zar also chairs the Myanmar Football Federation which launched a league of eight teams in 2009, each owned by regime cronies. The US cables cite a "well connected source" suggesting the league was established by the former President as an alternative to buying Manchester United for $1bn.

Daylife ID:
6324b36f1c2de069d5f5dfef558daa5e
Photographer:
;*;;*;;*;;*;;*;;*;;*;;*;
Image Source:
Hez Holland/Al Jazeera;*;Hez Holland/Al Jazeera;*;Hez Holland/Al Jazeera;*;Hez Holland/Al Jazeera;*;Hez Holland/Al Jazeera;*;Hez Holland/Al Jazeera;*;Hez Holland/Al Jazeera;*;Hez Holland/Al Jazeera;*;Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
Gallery Source:
Daylife
Daylife Raw Data:
Myanmar Crony Capitalishttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalisen-ussupport@newscred.comUntitled Site10Fri, 17 Jan 2014 12:20:11 GMT http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/0b092b59dcfe371f97a8fd2bd29b90c9

Graffiti shows a washing machine laundering money for three banks owned by so called cronies. Aung Ko Win, a close associate of the former junta's number two, owns KBZ Bank, KBZ airlines and founded Kanbawza United Football Club. AGD, or Asia Green Development Bank, is part of a sprawling empire run Tay Zar, by far Myanmar's most infamous crony, who also founded Yangon United Football Club. Serge Pun, worth $500 million according to Forbes Asia, founded Yoma bank in 1993 and is now CEO of Yoma Strategic Holdings, a Singapore listed outfit with interests in real estate, agribusiness, trading and automobile services.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/0b092b59dcfe371f97a8fd2bd29b90c9Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

Graffiti shows a washing machine laundering money for three banks owned by so called cronies. Aung Ko Win, a close associate of the former junta's number two, owns KBZ Bank, KBZ airlines and founded Kanbawza United Football Club. AGD, or Asia Green Development Bank, is part of a sprawling empire run Tay Zar, by far Myanmar's most infamous crony, who also founded Yangon United Football Club. Serge Pun, worth $500 million according to Forbes Asia, founded Yoma bank in 1993 and is now CEO of Yoma Strategic Holdings, a Singapore listed outfit with interests in real estate, agribusiness, trading and automobile services.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/9e8431a8cad49c22e9058b80ba7b1bea

Despite calling owner Tay Zar 'Burma's number one crony businessman,' the US eased sanctions on AGD Bank earlier this year to allow American companies to import and transfer money in Myanmar, highlighting the problems of applying sanctions selectively. The leaked US diplomatic cables say Tay Zar has brokered arms sales with Russia in the past, accusations he denies. Tay Zar has a passion for decadence but, following a helicopter crash in 2011, partially retired and rebranded himself as a self styled philanthropist. His glass fronted garage boasts a harem of luxury cars including a Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls Royce and Lamborghini.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/9e8431a8cad49c22e9058b80ba7b1beaHez Holland/Al Jazeera

Despite calling owner Tay Zar 'Burma's number one crony businessman,' the US eased sanctions on AGD Bank earlier this year to allow American companies to import and transfer money in Myanmar, highlighting the problems of applying sanctions selectively. The leaked US diplomatic cables say Tay Zar has brokered arms sales with Russia in the past, accusations he denies. Tay Zar has a passion for decadence but, following a helicopter crash in 2011, partially retired and rebranded himself as a self styled philanthropist. His glass fronted garage boasts a harem of luxury cars including a Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls Royce and Lamborghini.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/2c6da37fafca078137cb9c903fa526fb

The sparkling FMI shopping centre is popular amongst tourists and locals for its overpriced lattes and luxury hand bags. It's a joint venture between Parkson Retail Asia Limited and a subsidiary of Serge Pun's Yoma conglomerate. Prior to the easing of car import restrictions, Pun gained a 10 percent stake in a company producing Suzuki vehicles. These automobiles competed with locally produced 'Franken cars': cars built on a handmade chassis dripping with a hodgepodge of imported spare parts from Asia, modified to fit the vehicle. Initially selling for up to 15,000USD, rusting unbranded Jeeps still roam the streets of Yangon

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/2c6da37fafca078137cb9c903fa526fbHez Holland/Al Jazeera

The sparkling FMI shopping centre is popular amongst tourists and locals for its overpriced lattes and luxury hand bags. It's a joint venture between Parkson Retail Asia Limited and a subsidiary of Serge Pun's Yoma conglomerate. Prior to the easing of car import restrictions, Pun gained a 10 percent stake in a company producing Suzuki vehicles. These automobiles competed with locally produced 'Franken cars': cars built on a handmade chassis dripping with a hodgepodge of imported spare parts from Asia, modified to fit the vehicle. Initially selling for up to 15,000USD, rusting unbranded Jeeps still roam the streets of Yangon

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/9e1e43080a8e303861a48ba702bf95c6

Cranes at rest on the banks of the river in Yangon. The port is part of the Asia World business leviathan owned by Stephen Law, the son of drug kingpin Lo Hsing Han who the US called the 'Godfather of Heroin'. In recent years Stephen Law has lost favour in government circles because of his close links with China, analysts say. Asia World is a conduit for much of China's investment, including a deeply unpopular joint venture to build the Myitsone hydroelectric dam. In a sign of nascent democratic stirrings and a diplomatic lurch away from China, the project was suspended because of public pressure in 2011.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/9e1e43080a8e303861a48ba702bf95c6Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

Cranes at rest on the banks of the river in Yangon. The port is part of the Asia World business leviathan owned by Stephen Law, the son of drug kingpin Lo Hsing Han who the US called the 'Godfather of Heroin'. In recent years Stephen Law has lost favour in government circles because of his close links with China, analysts say. Asia World is a conduit for much of China's investment, including a deeply unpopular joint venture to build the Myitsone hydroelectric dam. In a sign of nascent democratic stirrings and a diplomatic lurch away from China, the project was suspended because of public pressure in 2011.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/41bc1fae5fa5bc4dbdfe5bb6f6277bf4

Toy Santa Claus hang in the lobby of Junction Square, the largest shopping mall in Yangon, whose food court, counterfeit fashion boutiques and cinema are stuffed with coiffured teenagers. It was built by Shwe Taung Group, headed by Aung Zaw Naing and his illustrious father Aik Htun, who has battled US accusations of narcotics trafficking and money laundering

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/41bc1fae5fa5bc4dbdfe5bb6f6277bf4Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

Toy Santa Claus hang in the lobby of Junction Square, the largest shopping mall in Yangon, whose food court, counterfeit fashion boutiques and cinema are stuffed with coiffured teenagers. It was built by Shwe Taung Group, headed by Aung Zaw Naing and his illustrious father Aik Htun, who has battled US accusations of narcotics trafficking and money laundering

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/244034cdbe8f14fd3569a09dca6d941b

A grey blue monolith on the Yangon skyline, the 366 room Novotel Hotel is being built by construction tycoon Zaw Zaw, managing director of Max Myanmar. He amassed his fortune importing used cars and motorcycles. More recently he built the ghostly 20 lane highways in the nation's new and broadly uninhabited capital, Nay Pyi Taw, to garner favour within the regime, according to the US cables. He also has interests in jade mining and logging.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/244034cdbe8f14fd3569a09dca6d941bHez Holland/Al Jazeera

A grey blue monolith on the Yangon skyline, the 366 room Novotel Hotel is being built by construction tycoon Zaw Zaw, managing director of Max Myanmar. He amassed his fortune importing used cars and motorcycles. More recently he built the ghostly 20 lane highways in the nation's new and broadly uninhabited capital, Nay Pyi Taw, to garner favour within the regime, according to the US cables. He also has interests in jade mining and logging.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/d2be7d9fc46f7f9f34ec43557b1dc998

A 20ft concrete dinosaur pokes through the foliage at Kendawgyi palace hotel, one of many hotels and resorts owned by Tay Zar.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/d2be7d9fc46f7f9f34ec43557b1dc998Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

A 20ft concrete dinosaur pokes through the foliage at Kendawgyi palace hotel, one of many hotels and resorts owned by Tay Zar.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/d4cd72db1a8268276c0564a80bc51565

Tshirts of pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for sale alongside her father Aung San, who lead the charge for independence from Britain. In a bid to cultivate a new image, Myanmar's crony capitalists have sought to curry favour with Suu Kyi. Tay Zar donated 81,000USD to an education scheme run by Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy party. In 2011 she was photographed attending a football match alongside Zaw Zaw, a signal of realpolitik from them both.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/d4cd72db1a8268276c0564a80bc51565Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

Tshirts of pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for sale alongside her father Aung San, who lead the charge for independence from Britain. In a bid to cultivate a new image, Myanmar's crony capitalists have sought to curry favour with Suu Kyi. Tay Zar donated 81,000USD to an education scheme run by Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy party. In 2011 she was photographed attending a football match alongside Zaw Zaw, a signal of realpolitik from them both.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/a2b6b16230ae54765aae825a6ba4feb6

A couple watch a baby elephant play with water in Yangon Zoological Gardens, which received a makeover in 2011 thanks to a USD14.5 million donation by the Htoo Foundation, the philanthropic wing of Tay Zar's Htoo empire. Tay Zar also chairs the Myanmar Football Federation which launched a league of eight teams in 2009, each owned by regime cronies. The US cables cite a 'well connected source' suggesting the league was established by the former President as an alternative to buying Manchester United for USD1 billion.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Myanmar_Crony_Capitalis/slideshow/no-caption/a2b6b16230ae54765aae825a6ba4feb6Hez Holland/Al Jazeera

A couple watch a baby elephant play with water in Yangon Zoological Gardens, which received a makeover in 2011 thanks to a USD14.5 million donation by the Htoo Foundation, the philanthropic wing of Tay Zar's Htoo empire. Tay Zar also chairs the Myanmar Football Federation which launched a league of eight teams in 2009, each owned by regime cronies. The US cables cite a 'well connected source' suggesting the league was established by the former President as an alternative to buying Manchester United for USD1 billion.



Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.