Tay Za and Zaw Zaw, were awarded one of the country’s highest honors, the title of “Thiri Pyanchi,”
Cable Viewer 09 RANGOON BURMA: UPDATE ON CRONY ZAW ZAW’S ACTIVITIES-update
Junta Confers Titles on Cronies
by Wai Moe
Businessmen associated with Burma’s military junta are not just profiting from their cozy relations with the country’s top generals, they’re also being honored for their contributions to society, according to reports from Rangoon.
Sources in the former Burmese capital said that two of the junta’s closest cronies, Tay Za and Zaw Zaw, were awarded one of the country’s highest honors, the title of “Thiri Pyanchi,” on Jan. 4, Burma’s Independence Day.Although the state-run media has made no mention of the honors conferred on the two men, who have both been placed on international sanctions blacklists, many in Rangoon’s business and journalistic circles are talking about it.
“We were all surprised when we heard that they had been awarded one of the highest honors in Burma along with 16 senior military officials,” said one Rangoon-based journalist, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Journalists and businessmen in Rangoon said Tay Za and Zaw Zaw were honored with the Thiri Pyanchi title for their “outstanding work” in helping Burma to develop its economy and for their contributions to the development of professional football in the country.
Tay Za and Zaw Zaw are two of the richest civilians in military-ruled Burma. Tay Za chairs the Htoo Group of Companies and Zaw Zaw runs the Max Myanmar Group of Companies.
Their close ties to the junta’s top generals have won them lucrative business concessions in a number of key industries, including logging, gems and jewelry, tourism and transportation, and civil engineering and construction. They are also involved in international trade, exporting rice, rubber and other agricultural products and importing machines, and have invested in the regime’s newly built Yadanabon Cyber City near Mandalay.
Last year, they both entered the field of professional sports promotion, playing key roles in the establishment of Burma’s new national football league. Tay Za is the owner of the Yangon United FC, one of the first privately owned football clubs in the country, and Zaw Zaw is the chairman of the Myanmar Football Federation.
Although both are dominant figures in Burma’s business world, internationally they are regarded as pariahs. Both have been targeted by Western sanctions.
According to the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Tay Za is “an arms dealer and financial henchman of Burma’s repressive junta,” while Zaw Zaw’s Max Myanmar has provided important services in support of the regime, particularly in the form of construction projects.
On Jan. 4, state-run newspapers published a list of honorary titles and medals that can bestowed on those who make outstanding contributions to the nation. The Thiri Pyanchi was listed as the highest honor.
“In accord with the new State Constitution, the honorary titles and the honorary medals will be conferred on the outstanding persons who contributed to building a peaceful, modern and developed nation,” according a statement signed by Secretary-1 Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo.
The title of Thiri Pyanchi was introduced after the country achieved independence in 1948, and has traditionally been given to outstanding civil servants and others who have made important contributions to Burmese society.
In 1978, late dictator Ne Win’s Burmese Social Programme Party dropped the Thiri Pyanchi from the list of honorary titles and introduced a new set of honors recognizing those who helped to forge socialism.
But in the Jan. 4 announcement, the junta said that it would resume the practice of granting awards given during the parliamentary period because the new Constitution had reinstated the parliament.
However, under the new Constitution, only the Pyidaungsu Hulttaw, or Union Parliament, can confer honorary titles and medals.
Burma’s parliament has not been convened since the junta seized power in 1988.
“The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw shall have the right to enact laws for the entire or any part of the Union related to matters prescribed in Schedule one of the Union Legislative List,” including honoring citizens with titles and medals, according to Section 96 of the 2008 Constitution.
Chan Tun, a veteran politician in Rangoon, said that in the past, the title of Thiri Pyanchi was awarded to hardworking officials and businessmen whose efforts benefited the people.
“Now it is for cronies who contribute to the businesses of the generals. So the current definition of the title is quite different from the past,” he said.
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