Dirty Secrets #3: Min Aung Hlaing’s daughter in secret deal with Mytel

April 21, 2021

The daughter of Myanmar’s #1 international criminal has had substantial business dealings with military-controlled mobile operator Mytel, new leaked documents obtained by DDoSecrets show, in a serious conflict of interest.

Khin Thiri Thet Mon, daughter of the leader of illegal coup d'état Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, was still a shareholder in Pinnacle Asia, a company that built mobile phone towers for Mytel when her father staged the coup illegally on February 1.

She only resigned from Pinnacle Asia on March 17 – just days after the US government imposed Treasury sanctions against her in response to the violent attacks on unarmed civilians who are against the murderous regime.

Mytel and Min Aung Hlaing

Mytel was created during the military’s proxy government, led by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The government’s 28% share is allocated to Star High.

Star High was created by Myanmar Economic Corporation, a military conglomerate controlled by Min Aung Hlaing. Star High’s remit is seemingly to hold the military’s stake in Mytel.

This creates a serious conflict of interest as Min Aung Hlaing's family is profiting access to state business.

Min Aung Hlaing personally played a key role in the establishment of Mytel, leading numerous negotiations with the Vietnamese military and presiding over the launch.

Pinnacle and Mytel

Pinnacle Asia appears linked to Mytel from its first inception. Pinnacle Asia was established in 2016, the same year that the military was awarded shares in Myanmar’s fourth mobile operator Mytel.

Pinnacle Asia then entered into business with Star High to build towers for Mytel and, according to a Linkedin profile, also has contracts with Ooredoo, another mobile phone company.

Pinnacle Asia’s managing director is Sao Sawm Zai, an Australian citizen. A third director is Mya Myitzu. Sao Sawm Zai and Mya Myitzu are both directors of Pinnacle Myanmar, a Singapore registered company. Little information is available about the Singapore business, which had links to publicly listed firm Singaporean Myanmar Investco to establish a Jones the Grocer franchise in Myanmar. The deal was called off in 2018.

Bank complicity: Yoma

The tower business that Khin Thiri Thet Mon owned until last month is financed by internationally exposed Myanmar banks. This raises human rights and corruption concerns for their shareholders.

In February 2020, Yoma Bank, a Myanmar lender, issued a loan to Pinnacle Asia, guaranteed against a tower contract with Mytel. Khin Thiri Thet Mon signed the loan as a guarantor. The loan specified that revenue from Mytel is to be routed to Yoma Bank until the loan is repaid. The loan was authorised by both Star High and Telecom International Myanmar. This was followed by a second loan guaranteed against Mytel towers.

International shareholder exposure

Even though Yoma Bank was doing business with Min Aung Hlaing’s family and financed towers for Mytel, Norway’s Norfund and Singapore’s GIC invested in the bank. The equity purchase was announced in April 2020. In 2019, the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank, converted an earlier Yoma Bank loan to 5% equity in the bank.

Norfund, GIC and IFC stand to profit from Yoma Bank’s business with Mytel and the family of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and are exposed to the corruption and human rights implications of these loans.

In July 2020, crony bank AGD, owned by Tayza, announced a project finance agreement with Pinnacle Asia for an undisclosed amount to increase tower holdings to 400 by 2021. Tayza is a close associate of Than Shwe who built his business through the preferential treatment he receives as a result of his close and personal ties with the military.

In August 2019, the UN Fact-Finding Mission concluded that the military’s economic interests enable their atrocity crimes. It recommended that “no business enterprise active in Myanmar or trading with or investing in businesses in Myanmar should enter into or remain in a business relationship of any kind with the security forces of Myanmar, in particular the Tatmadaw, or any enterprise owned or controlled by them” and cautioned against business with family members of the military, which can be linked to or support the military. Yoma Bank and AGD disregarded these recommendations.

Family business

Khin Thiri Thet Mon’s business with Mytel shows how Min Aung Hlaing’s family profits from access to state resources. Star High was awarded the government’s lucrative share in Mytel but, before the brutal and illegal coup de’ tat, was unaccountable to parliamentary scrutiny. Khin Thiri Thet Mon’s business with Star High and Mytel is a clear example of a conflict of interest that is seen across military cartel businesses.

Since the coup, the military has been deliberately attacking and killed more than 700 people including 49 children. Youngest killed was seven years old girl, whom before being shot, was scared because her father and brother were beaten by police who broke into their house. They have been using lethal weapons with sole aim to kill and these amount to crimes against humanity.  The military has carried out indiscriminate air strikes against ethnic Karen and Kachin peoples in recent days, part of ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity the Myanmar military has been committing against ethnic communities for decades. Min Aung Hlaing and the junta leadership, who are seeking to profit from the coup, must be held to account and perpetrators of these crimes must be prosecuted.

Khin Thiri Thet Mon and other children of top military generals have long profited from the systemic corruption of the Myanmar military, at the expense of the people of Myanmar. As long as the military maintains power, this corruption will continue. Min Aung Hlaing’s family must be investigated for corruption and any stolen assets returned to the people of Myanmar. The cartel must be dismantled.