Friday, July 10, 2015

Tay Za's wife removed from US sanctions list, could billionaire be next?

Photo: Tay Za (right) billionaire mountain climbing enthusiast and arms dealer

The spouse of Burmese tycoon Tay Za has been removed from the US Burma sanctions list, according to a brief statement issued this week by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), an entity which administers sanctions on behalf of the US government.

Thidar Zaw, was added to the list in 2007 along with her billionaire husband shortly after Burmese military troops crushed a monk led uprising with brute force. Her husband Tay Za is known for being close to the military and was accused by US authorities of being a “henchman” for Senior General Than Shwe's military regime.

Leaked US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks quoted their son telling diplomatic officials that his mother had been separated from Tay Za for a number of years. This may be the reason that Thidar Zaw was removed. A Treasury department spokesperson told Risk & Compliance Journal that with regards to Thidar Zaw, “Circumstances have changed and she no longer meets the criteria under which she was listed”. The Treasury Department spokesperson declined to give further details.

It remains to be seen if Tay Za a mountain climbing enthusiast and well known arms dealer will himself be removed from the US sanctions list in the near future as some analysts predict will happen. Tay Za has previously indicated that he thinks that it is unfair that he is on the sanctions list. He complained to Forbes magazine last year about US efforts to target his business operations. “They are world police,” he said in reference to American government authorities.

Tay Za's extensive business interests in Kachin state

Tay Za has extensive business interests in Kachin state including in Hpakant's jade mines and in Putao, a mountainous area known to be rich in natural resources including timber and minerals. The Irrawaddy magazine reported in September 2013 that Tay Za had been recently granted a 100,000 acre (40,000 hectare) logging concession in Putao district by government authorities. The new logging concession enables Tay Za to harvest a long stretch of pristine forest, which until recently had been left largely left untouched. Tay Za is also known to have extensive mining interests in Putao district and firms under his control have applied for permits to mine for gold and other minerals in the area.

During a ceremony in Naypyidaw in January 2013, representatives of two firms owned by Tay Za, Air Bagan and Asia Green Development Bank Limited, made a joint 70 Million Kyat (US $82,000) donation to support Burma army troops taking part in offensives against Kachin Independence Army forces (KIA).

The donation which came in the form of a giant check was quickly denounced by Kachin civil society groups and Kachin exiles including the Kachin National Organization (KNO), who hold Tay Za responsible for encouraging the military to engage in a brutal and bloody conflict that has left more than 100,000 civilians internally displaced.


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