The UDP, popularly known as the ‘Rose Party’, is now without Myint, who is now in custody facing charges of money laundering, flouting Myanmar’s business laws, and fleeing an earlier prison sentence handed to him under the military regime. The party has just been disbanded due to his illegal financial activities, ET has learnt.
ET has further learnt that Myint was well connected to Chinese transnational organized crime syndicates.
In Myanmar, many mafia kingpins are involved in illicit trades but live in Yangon, Mandalay or Shan and Kachin states along the China-Myanmar border. Some have militia forces and strong business connections in China, and some are associated with criminal gangs or ethnic armed groups involved in both legal and illegal businesses, according to a report in The Irrawaddy, Myanmar’s leading media platform. Michael Kyaw Myint is one such figure.
After returning from Canada, he established the UDP, known locally as the “Rose Party”, to contest elections in Myanmar. Last year, according to political observers, the party began to expand its ambitions, becoming more aggressive in its public outreach.
Suspicions were aroused when Rose Party signboards suddenly sprung up in Shan and Kayah states of Myanmar last year.
Since entering Myanmar from China in 2013, Myint has purchased several buildings and land plots in Yangon, Naypyitaw and Pyin Oo Lwin. A Myanmar government spokesman said at a press briefing last week that, “He was able to save 33 million Canadian dollars [32.42 billion kyats] in bank accounts at CBC Bank, RDC Bank and TD Bank. After withdrawing all the cash, he took 18 million [Canadian dollars] and shared the remaining 15 million with his family.”
The government spokesman said Myanmar Kyaw Investment Group Co. Ltd. illegally received 16.315 billion kyats (about US$12.5 million) in 2015 via money transfer services operating on the Chinese border in Muse, Shan State, adding that the cash transfers were made by Chinese citizens in Ruili and Jiegao engaged in illegal money transfer services.
Myint has said his political background includes working for the United Wa State Party (UWSP). He also claims to be an adopted son (under the Kachin name Zakhung Zung Sau) of Zahkung Ting Ying, a powerful local militia leader in Kachin State. However, according to journalist Bertil Lintner, Michael Kyaw Myint is not an ethnic Kachin but a Sino-Myanmar businessman.
Michael Kyaw Myint, a.k.a Michael Hua, married the youngest daughter of Zau Mai, an ethnic Kachin who had initially been with the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). When the CPB faced a serious mutiny in 1989, Zau Mai joined the United Wa State Army (UWSA), where he became a high-ranking officer.
Fluent in Burmese, Myint was chosen to travel to Yangon and set up companies and run businesses there to generate money for the Wa leaders. Myint set up Myanmar Kyone Yeom, which was involved in money laundering in the 1990s. Around the same time, there were two other Chinese banks set up in Yangon, but in 1998 they and Myanmar Kyone Yeom were closed down over their involvement in money laundering.
The now-defunct Hong Kong-based magazine Asiaweek earlier reported that a company run by Myint was laundering money for the UWSA, which was then heavily involved in the drug trade.
In November 1998, Jane’s Intelligence Review reported that Myint, who claimed to be a deputy minister of finance for the UWSA, flouted Myanmar’s business laws. Myanmar Kyone Yeom was outlawed by the Myanmar Investment Commission and Michael Kyaw Myint was given a 10-year prison sentence.
The US State Department said in its “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1998” released in February of that year that the Myanmar suspended Myanmar Kyone Yeom for violating the Myanmar Company Act, although the government did not indicate that this was a counter-narcotics action.
Myint did not serve his full jail term and escaped to Thailand and alleged to have established contacts with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In 2009, Myint told the Vancouver Sun that the DEA had helped him obtain political asylum in the US and he moved to New Jersey, before moving to Canada in 2002, where he sought political asylum and lived in Vancouver. Myint set up numerous companies in Vancouver, including Maple Leaf Reforestation Inc.
In 2009, Myint came into the spotlight in Canada when trading in Future Canada China Environment Inc. was halted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) when the value of the company’s stock rose rapidly to more than US$1 billion (6.5 billion kyats at the 2009 exchange rate).
Myint denied allegations of drug dealing and money laundering in a statement. “I, U Kyaw Myint, have never conducted or been involved in the illegal drug business or money laundering business in my life,” said the statement on his website. He stated: “All my businesses in North America and Asia are legal.”
Interestingly, while in Canada he maintained his interest in politics in Myanmar. He moved to China in 2012 and stayed in Kunming city, from where he exported construction materials, household commodities and tricycles to Myanmar. He also made 30 billion kyats worth of investments in Myanmar merchants. He entered Myanmar via Muse in 2013.
Ahead of Myanmar’s general election in 2010, the fugitive recruited a number of politicians in Myanmar and established the UDP inside the country. The UDP is no newcomer to the political scene in Myanmar. The party also contested the 2015 election but it failed, as it did in 2010.
Pro-NLD sources accuse him of being a Chinese spy but there is no proof of this. However, Michael Kyaw Myint held a high-profile meeting with China’s then ambassador to Myanmar, Yang Houlan, in December 2013. This could be a larger plot to subvert Myanmar’s fragile transition process.