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In Myanmar business circles, the most talked about businessman is Tay Za, who owns the Htoo Trading Company Ltd, also known as the Htoo Group of Companies

August 25, 2009

On the march to do business in Myanmar

The debate over United States and European Union-led sanctions against doing business in Myanmar is set to intensify in the wake of US Senator Jim Webb’s recent high-profile meeting with Senior General Than Shwe and detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Webb spoke out against the sanctions and Myanmar’s junta echoed that call through state media. As US policymakers weigh the pros and cons of economically re-engaging the ruling junta, the process will necessarily take into account that a handful of military linked businessmen, many allegedly involved in illegal activities, including drug trafficking, dominate Myanmar’s underdeveloped economy.

For US investors eyeing business opportunities that the cessation of sanctions would present, dealing with Myanmar’s top military and business leaders would be key to gaining market access. Myanmar is one of the world’s most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International, an independent corruption watchdog, and US businesses would enter Myanmar at great risk to their corporate reputations.

In Myanmar business circles, the most talked about businessman is Tay Za, who owns the Htoo Trading Company Ltd, also known as the Htoo Group of Companies. Htoo maintains large logging, construction, property development, import-export, aviation, transportation, shipping and mining operations. Tay Za has also made recent forays into telecommunications and banking, and established Myanmar’s first privately invested airline, Air Bagan.
The US Treasury Department placed five of those companies, along with Tay Za, his wife, and eldest son, Pye Phyo Za, on a sanctions list in October 2007 because of their financial connections to the regime and Tay Za’s alleged role as an arms broker. In February 2008, the US stepped up those sanctions by putting several more companies and Tay Za’s business associates in both Myanmar and Singapore on a black list, including Tay Za’s brother and business partner Thiha. Htoo Trading Company Ltd, which includes Ayer Shwe Wah Company Ltd, Myanmar Avia Export Company Ltd and Pavo Aircraft Leasing Company Ltd, are all currently under US sanctions. continue
On the march to do business in Myanmar

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