The arrest of Tun Min Latt in Bangkok also exposed his close links to Myanmar’s senior general Min Aung Hlaing and two of his adult children.
Tun Min Latt was arrested in a dawn raid in Bangkok on September 17, and indicted on December 13 on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and transnational organised crime, which carry penalties ranging from 15 years to death.
Police have seized real estate, cash, cars, luxury watches and brand-name handbags since Tun Min Latt’s arrest, according to the Justice for Myanmar (JFM) group.
Among items listed as being in Tun Min Latt’s possession was the title deed for a four-bedroom unit in Belle Grand Rama 9 – a luxury condominium in Bangkok belonging to the top Burmese general’s son Aung Pyae Sone, according to the seizure record. The condo was purchased in 2017 at a cost of about $1 million.
Thai police also listed two Siam Commercial Bank passbooks belonging to the top general’s daughter Khin Thiri Thet Mon.
“The revelations are significant in linking Min Aung Hlaing’s family to the ongoing criminal proceedings against Tun Min Latt and raise questions over the source of funds for the assets listed, JFM said in a report on its website on Wednesday.
“The case demonstrates that senior Myanmar military family members have access to Thai banks and more broadly to Thailand as a destination to hide their illegal gains from the military’s systemic corruption. This is despite sanctions and other measures that seek to restrict the junta’s access to the international financial system,” the group said.
Arms buyer for Myanmar military
Tun Min Latt, who has interests in hotels, energy and mining, is a close associate of Min Aung Hlaing, who seized power from the democratically elected Suu Kyi government in February 2021.
The tycoon, or ‘crony’ as they are known in Myanmar, has procured supplies for the military, according to three sources JFM said.
Publicly available pictures show Tun Min Latt and the army chief together at an arms fair in 2019, along with three Thai nationals on charges of conspiracy to traffic narcotics and money laundering.
Tun Min Latt is in pre-trial detention; his lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Min Aung Hlaing’s two children face no legal action over the assets, according to the two people with knowledge of the case. They added that Thai authorities did not consider them relevant to the investigation against Tun Min Latt.
The top general and his children did not respond to requests for comment by Reuters. The US said they had businesses that “directly benefited from their father’s position and malign influence”.
‘Hiding Assets in Thailand’
A spokesperson for Justice for Myanmar said the discovery also indicated Min Aung Hlaing’s family was hiding assets in Thailand.
The group urged the Thai government to take “urgent action to prevent it from becoming a safe haven for Myanmar war criminals by blocking the illegitimate Myanmar junta and its members from accessing Thai banks and property, and freezing stolen assets that belong to the people of Myanmar”.
Thai government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri declined to comment and referred questions to law enforcement agencies, who did not respond to requests for comment.
Reuters said it confirmed that Khin Thiri Thet Mon’s bank account has since been closed, but was unable to determine who closed it or when. Siam Commercial Bank and the Belle Grand Rama 9 condominium did not respond to requests for comment.
Moves to end crisis
In related news, key powerbrokers in Southeast Asia have been ramping up efforts to end the crisis in Myanmar.
Indonesia, which now heads the ASEAN regional group, is setting up an office for a Special Envoy to Myanmar in a bid to find ways to end the civil war, which has led to thousands of deaths and destroyed the fastest growing economy in the region since the military seized power nearly two years ago.
Since the coup, Min Aung Hlaing’s forces have launched a bloody crackdown on dissent, killing thousands of opponents, according to the United Nations, which accuses Myanmar’s troops of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The military says it is waging a war on “terrorists”.
Thailand, which shares a land border of more than 2,000 kilometres with Myanmar, has refrained from overt criticism of the junta and last month invited junta ministers to attend a regional summit, which was boycotted by several nations because of their presence.
Jets bomb rebels on India border
Rights groups, meanwhile, called on Thursday for India to block Myanmar jets from flying into their air space and take measures to protect ethnic-Chin and Indian civilians in border areas.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Myanmar junta air force dropped bombs on both sides of the Myanmar-India border, killing five ethnic-Chin opposition soldiers and destroying civilian structures.
“New Delhi shouldn’t tolerate the junta’s incursions on its airspace, and Indian authorities should do everything in their power to ensure the security of civilians and border areas,” said Matthew Smith, the head of Fortify Rights, who said the Indian armed forces appeared to have been tipped off about the assaults.
“India should be aware of the junta’s habit of violating its neighbors’ airspaces and terrorising civilian populations and take action accordingly.”
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard
NOTE: A minor change was made to the headline of this report on January 13, 2023.