Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Than Shwe’s Grandson in Drug Scandal

The Irrawaddy News

Nay Shwe Thway Aung, until now the favorite grandson of Burmese head of state Snr-Gen Than Shwe, is reportedly at the center of a drug scandal in Rangoon.

A source close to the military elite told The Irrawaddy on Monday that two men close to Than Shwe’s grandson were arrested by police on suspicion of procuring ecstasy pills for him.

“I heard the family found some ecstasy pills on Nay Shwe Thway Aung last month,” the source said. “Then Aung Zaw Ye Myint [the son of Lt-Gen Ye Myint, a high-ranking general] and Maung Waik [a well-known business crony] were arrested in connection with the drugs.”

While rumors of the scandal began circulating the former capital, there were no birthday celebrations for Than Shwe’s grandson on May 22, the day he turned 17.

“Normally they have a big birthday party for the grandson every year,” said the source. “But this year, there was not even a small party among relatives.”

Last year, a birthday party was reportedly held in honor of Nay Shwe Thway Aung at Rangoon’s exclusive Sedona Hotel. Among the party guests were the wives of top junta leaders Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye and Gen Shwe Mann, as well as Zaw Zaw, a well-known business crony and director of Max Co, and popular rock musician Zaw Win Htut.

Two weeks ago, sources told The Irrawaddy, a family religious ceremony was held at one of Than Shwe’s houses in Rangoon, but Nay Shwe Thway Aung was conspicuously absent.

Nay Shwe Thway Aung is a familiar face in Burma because he usually accompanies his grandfather on inspection tours throughout the country and enjoys red-carpet treatment wherever he goes.

Aung Zaw Ye Myint and Maung Waik were detained in May accused of selling drugs to Rangoon’s elite. At that time, several Burmese celebrities and businessmen were reportedly interrogated by a special drugs task force.

Last year, a famous actor, Dwe, died of heart failure caused by a drugs overdose, according to various sources.

But Rangoon residents have been surprised by the amount of rumors and gossip surrounding the recent drug scandal and a crackdown which appears related to the military elite and their cronies.

Some observers in Burma have suggested the drugs arrests were a smokescreen for a fresh power struggle within the military hierarchy. They claimed that Maung Waik is close to Gen Shwe Mann, the number 3 man in the junta.

Drug use among high-society families and celebrities has been an open secret for years in Burma. Late dictator Gen Ne Win’s three favorite grandsons—Aye Ne Win, Kyaw Ne Win and Zwe Ne Win— also enjoyed considerable family perks and were constantly rumored to be addicted to ecstasy pills.

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