May” One of Burma’s wealthiest and most powerful business tycoons, Tay Za, has enjoyed a cosy relationship with the country’s top leaders, including Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Gen Thura Shwe Mann. He is also known to be romantically involved with one of the head general’s daughters, Khin Pyone Shwe, also called Pyone Pyone Shwe.
But this young tycoon’s confidence – and his personal security – might be on the wane, according to business sources close to Tay Za. “He knows that the regime has no future and is plagued with internal fighting. He also knows that his close ties with the top dogs make him vulnerable.” The Irrawaddy has in recent years closely monitored Tay Za and his business ties to high-ranking members of Burma’s repressive regime.
Sources also report that Tay Za is keeping an eye on Deputy Snr-Gen Maung Aye, the army commander-in-chief, who has reportedly taken a dislike to him. Last year, while serving as chairman of Burma’s Trade Policy Council, Maung Aye instructed his trusted man, Hla Tun, the minister of Finance and Revenue, to increase taxes on Tay Za-owned businesses.
Htoo Trading Company, Tay Za’s principal business with interests in tourism, real estate, construction and arms trafficking, among many other things, was Hla Tun’s first target. He instructed state auditors to examine the company’s accounts, but Khin Pyone Shwe intervened to block the investigation.
After the incident, Tay Za confided to business associates that he feared that Maung Aye may one day succeed Than Shwe. The increasingly nervous tycoon, who regularly takes business trips and extravagant shopping sprees to Singapore, even reportedly suggested the possibility of relocating to the Lion City in the event of Maung Aye’s rise to power.
Tay Za may have soothed the rift with the junta number two when he accompanied him on a recent official trip to Russia as part of a 60-member delegation tasked with strengthening defence and trade ties between the two countries. Burma has previously purchased MiG 29 jet fighters from Moscow, and the delegation reportedly agreed to purchase more military hardware.
The charismatic Tay Za is known to have a silver tongue and considerable experience dealing with Burma’s notoriously testy rulers. This, coupled with Maung Aye’s reputation for skimming extravagant bribes from shady business deals, may buy Tay Za a temporary reprieve.