While reading reports on the 2020 Election in Myanmar I came across stories related to the far-right “Rose Party”. Its founder and leader, Michael Kyaw Myint, was arrested for laundering foreign money through the party.
These are my early leads on this story.
The chair of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Kyaw Myint, violated anti-money laundering laws by receiving 16bn kyat ($12.2m) from China in 2015, the President’s Office spokesperson has said.
He did not give details about who sent the money, but said that Kyaw Myint later spent 1.4bn kyat ($1.07m) to fund the UDP’s activities.
The party is fielding more candidates than the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party for the November 8 election, even though it has never elected an MP and was little known until recently.
“The money in U Kyaw Myint’s bank accounts was transferred from China through unofficial hundi services,” he said. “We found out that 16.315 billion kyat was transferred into the UAB and AYA bank accounts of Myanmar Kyaw Investment… from China in 2015.”Min Min, Myanmar Now (Oct 15 2020)
Myanmar’s Union Election Commission has disbanded the United Democratic Party (UDP) and disqualified its candidates from running as MPs in next month’s election after it found the party in possession of illegal funds.
The President’s Office announced last week that the party’s chair Kyaw Myint had illegally received the equivalent of millions of US dollars from China. Kyaw Myint was arrested last month for escaping from a Mandalay prison in 1999.
Michael Kyaw Myint Hua Hu, as he is also known, was accused of laundering drug money for the United Wa State Army in the 1990s and was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 for flouting Myanmar’s business laws.
He escaped from Mandalay’s Obo prison in 1999, and took asylum in the US and then Canada, where he founded the UDP in 2007.
Authorities have now found a total of 52 billion kyat while investigating Kyaw Myint, who was arrested last month for escaping from prison in 1999. His party was dissolved earlier this month by the UEC for possessing illegal funds.
The latest seizure includes properties in Yangon, Hmawbi, Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin and the village of Pyin Sa, said Zaw Htay.
He was also accused of laundering drug money for the United Wa State Army.
Despite being a fugitive, he returned to Myanmar in 2013 via the Muse land border with China. He has now also been charged for breaching the 1947 Immigration Act when he re-entered the country.
After escaping the prison, Kyaw Myint sought asylum in America and then Canada, where he founded the UDP in 2007. He officially registered the party at the Union Election Commission before the 2010 election.
The President’s Office has yet to provide any information about how Kyaw Myint was allowed to be the chair of a political party after entering the country in 2013.
In Kyaw Myint’s official statement at the Chan Aye Tharzan court on October 23, he said he entered Myanmar after meeting with Myanmar diplomats in America and China.
He also said he met Union Election Commission chair Tin Aye and Prisons Department director general Kyaw Nyunt when he was trying to register as the UDP’s chair.
When asked about Kyaw Myint’s meetings with officials from the previous government, Zaw Htay said it was important to understand whether accepting a meeting with Kyaw Myint was against the law.
It is unclear if any officials from the previous government are being investigated.
In Myanmar, many mafia members and other criminals live and thrive—though they mostly keep a low profile and don’t make public appearances. Many 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. Michael Kyaw Myint is one such figure—but with a difference.
After returning from Canada, he established the UDP, known locally as the “Rose Party”, to contest elections in Myanmar.
Suspicions were aroused when Rose Party signboards suddenly sprung up in Shan and Kayah states last year. Using its deep pockets to recruit new members, the party has developed a devoted following among some villagers in the ethnic states, though they are largely unaware of the existence of its shadowy chairman.
Since slipping back into Myanmar from China in 2013, Michael Kyaw Myint has bought several buildings and land plots in Yangon, Naypyitaw and Pyin Oo Lwin. A 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.”
In Yangon, he moved around in a discreet manner (albeit with armed guards) and quietly approached and made informal alliances with several politicians.
Michael Kyaw Myint has said his political background includes working for the United Wa State Party (UWSP). He also claims to be an apted 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, who has written several books on drugs and politics in Myanmar, Michael Kyaw Myint is not an ethnic Kachin but a Sino-Myanmar businessman. Indeed, he is a real scam artist and con man. But what is his motive for contesting the election?
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.
Michael Kyaw Myint did not serve his full jail term and escaped. It was suspected that he bribed prison officers and escaped to Thailand.
Michael Kyaw Myint first went to Chiang Mai, where he established contacts with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He knew movers and shakers in the notorious Golden Triangle drug trade and probably sold some information to the Americans. Wa leaders then were known to be heavily involved in the heroin and other illicit trades and were placed under US sanctions. By that time, the UWSA was being described by the DEA as “Southeast Asia’s leading heroin and methamphetamine trafficking organization”.
Total electoral wipeout for the yeoman development party (where was Michael Kyaw Myint’s UDP? Was this formed bc UDP was dissolved?)
Buddhist nationalist candidates this year hailed from several parties including the Peace and Diversity Party, the National Prosperity Party, the National Democratic Force Party, and the Democratic Party of National Politics.
Michael Kyaw Myint, who was jailed last year for leading an anti-Muslim mob that shut down Ramadan prayers, received just 437 votes for his bid to win a seat in South Dagon, where there are more than 200,000 eligible voters.