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Unmasking a new face of Myanmar military’s crony

Yangon (Chindwin): With the military known as Tatmadaw ruling the nation for more than six decades, the militarized institutionalization has been deeply rooted, creating enormous opportunities for the cronies who are helping the military build a nepotism and favouritism-based system in the ruling mechanism of Myanmar military’s governance. 

The cronies who have close ties with the military in Myanmar are in a hidden league, yet many are difficult to be hidden for long enough. 

Of many individuals making excessive profits out of doing business with the military elites for half a century, a new face of another crony who has long worked for the military and is involved in brokering an arms deal with Ukraine has been unmasked. 

Mr Aung Hliang Oo is the owner of Myanmar Chemical & Machinery (MCM) and is a well-to-do crony supporting the procurement of weapons for the Tatmadaw from Ukraine. 

The Tatmadaw, led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, staged a coup in Feb 2021, bringing the country into a near-total ruin. The hard work of the NLD’s government and former President Thein Sein in establishing a democratic institution for the last nine years have been effectively reversed back to the old era under the whips of military’s rule. 

“Myanmar Chemical & Machinery (MCM)” is registered as a local firm in Myanmar under the DICA (Directorate of Investment and Company Administration). The company is run and managed by Aung Hlaing Oo, who played an important role in procuring weapons from Ukraine for the Tatmadaw. 

He was once appointed Honorary Consul of Ukraine in January 2017. 

On 08 September, Justice for Myanmar revealed that Ukraine had a military-tech cooperation agreement with Myanmar’s military, including research and development for which a joint project for arms manufacturing is to be set up in Myanmar. The weapon factory is said to produce BTR-4 armored personnel carriers, MMT-40 tanks, and 2SIU self-propelled howitzers for domestic use and export.

A design plan of the joint-project plant for arms manufacturing in Myanmar. Sources: Justice for Myanmar (JFM).

This arm manufacturing plant is supported by Aung Hlaing Oo, who receives commissions of 20% – 30 % on arms sales from Ukraine to Myanmar’s military. 

The Diplomat also reported that the main Ukrainian arms exports to Myanmar are air surveillance radar systems, armored personnel carriers, aircraft engines, and MMT-40 light tanks.

The MCM strongly supports the procurement of weapons for the Armed Forces from Ukraine and the factory in Myanmar to help procure the machinery, equipment, and technology necessary to manufacture weapons for the Tatmadaw.

The two countries have developed a good relationship and a strong tie for more than a decade.  Since then, Ukraine, despite the military coup d’état, has been exporting arms and continuing to transfer technology, said JFM’s report, adding that Ukraine’s state-owned Ukroboronservice shipped around 164 kilograms of aircraft parts to Yatanarpon Aviation Services. 

Also, Aung Mo Myint, who owns Dynasty Group of Companies, supports procuring weapons such as tanks, machinery, Airforce protection system and equipment, missiles from Belarus and Serbia. Aung Mo Myint accompanied air force Chief Admiral Tin Maung Win in an official visit to Belarus last year. Following their trip, a cargo flight IL-62 from Rada Airlines with full loads of weapons arrived soon after the coup took place. Aung Mo Myint has a long tie with the military and had helped purchase Russian-made 12 MIG 29 Fighting Jets from Belarus.  

Aung Hlaing Oo is said to be a key player in planning to set up a factory to manufacture wheeled armoured vehicles BTR-4, MMT-40 light tanks, and 2SIU self-propelled artillery guns manufactured in Ukraine for domestic use and export. 

The Chindwin understands that this project is a joint venture between the Myanmar Chemical & Machinery and the Ukroboronprom, a Ukrainian state defense company. The Eastern European company has shipped a large number of tank parts via MCM’s subsidiary Amethyst Trading in 2018 and armored tanks and vehicles parts in 2019, according to JFM. 

Aung Hlaing Oo, a close friend of Coup leader Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, a graduate of the Myanmar Military Academy, has served as commander of the school and the Defense Service Academy. 

Between 2016 – 2017, Aung Hlaing Oo has helped the military junta procure parts from Ukraine and Serbia, assembling, repairing, and improving BTR-4U and BTR-3U wheeled armoured vehicles, helicopter, wheeled armoured vehicle parts, marine engines, marine radar systems, and others through a Singapore-based MCM Pacific company.

He is the new powerful and wealthy crony who moves freely without being spotted by the Western sanctions.  

JFM’s spokesperson Yadanar Maung said that Ukraine is enabling and profiting from atrocity crimes in Myanmar through its deep ties to the Myanmar military. 

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