By MIN LWIN
The Irrawaddy News
One of the richest men in Burma and a powerful friend of the country’s ruling military elite has been charged with drug abuse and involvement in trafficking, according to a police sergeant from Lanmadaw Township police station in central Rangoon.
The senior policeman told The Irrawaddy that Maung Weik, 35, was charged at Lanmadaw Township police station along with Nay Tun Lwin, Aung Min, Kyaw Phone Naing, Kyaw Hlaing, Kyaw Kyaw Win and Malaysian national Peter Too Huat Haw.
The Myanmar Times weekly journal also reported that the seven named suspects had been charged with engaging in drug trafficking from Malaysia to Burma since 2003.
Maung Weik, a founder of the Maung Weik & Family business group, which is involved in trading and real estate, is accused of importing ecstasy and ketamine to Burma. It has been reported that he catered to wealthy Burmese youths and sons of leading generals.
“They often held parties at their offices or homes and invited celebrities,” a close friend of Maung Weik said. “They got people hooked on drugs and then kept on selling the stuff to them.”
Sources said that ecstasy pills generally sold for as much as 60,000 kyat each (US $50) in upper-class circles in Rangoon, a relative fortune in a country where the average salary is little more than $30 per month.
“Maung Weik used drugs with family members of the ruling generals and distributed drugs to movie stars,” said his former business partner.
According to sources, Maung Weik and his cronies forced young actresses and models to have sex with them after giving them drugs.
“If some military officials or their family members want to have sex, they come to Maung Weik and he arranges one of these celebrity girls,” one of his friends said.
“He is very happy to serve up anything for Burmese officials and their families,” she said. “Whatever they want—drugs, drink, sex—he is always ready.”
“Drug trafficking crimes carry a ten-year to life sentence,” a Rangoon businessman told The Irrawaddy. “I don’t know what the government will do for Maung Weik, but he is close to the military generals and their families.”
According to several journalists, Burma’s chief of police denied that any celebrities had been arrested or detained and said they had not charged any businessmen with drugs offences or trafficking on June 26.
Meanwhile, a source close to Than Shwe’s family said that Nay Shwe Thway Aung, the favorite grandson of Burmese head of state Snr-Gen Than Shwe, was also involved in the Maung Weik drug scandal.
“I heard Than Shwe was angry at Maung Weik because he got his grandson addicted to ecstasy,” the source said. “So he ordered the crackdown on Maung Weik and his drug gang.”
By MIN LWIN
SEPTEMBER, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.9
Another of Burma’s young business barons, Maung Weik founded the Maung Weik & Family Co, which first gained prominence a decade ago and has since become the biggest importer of steel and gilding glue—used in the building and maintenance of Burma’s many pagodas. While his company has earned much of its profits from the development and construction sectors, Maung Weik also speculated heavily in the futures markets (beans and pulses) for several years until profits flattened out in 2005, and two years earlier began exporting marine products.
Maung Weik stirred up controversy in 2004 with his purchase of 44 acres of Rangoon’s Hlaing Campus (formerly Regional College No. 2). Former university students and faculty were resentful of his plan to build a housing development on the site. Other members of the business community also complained that the campus belonged to the people of Burma and should not be parceled out to investors by the government. Maung Weik’s deal for the Hlaing Campus was reportedly inked by ousted prime minister Khin Nyunt. Rumor now has it that criticism of the deal has led Maung Weik to sell the 44 acres to fellow tycoon Tay Za.
Other difficulties have posed problems for Maung Weik, whose company has in recent years earned a reputation for shoddy construction materials and poor service. Such criticism and speculation about Maung Weik’s connections with Khin Nyunt, say fellow businessmen in Rangoon, have compelled the young tycoon to keep a low profile. These reports would seem to have been confirmed as Maung Weik insisted on his exclusion from any discussion of Burma’s top business leaders when contacted by The Irrawaddy, and suggested that many other Burmese businessmen were wealthier and more successful.
Perhaps Maung Weik sells himself short. He has considerable connections within Burma’s military government. He is married to the niece of Maj-Gen Myint Swe, the commander of Rangoon Division and head of the newly created Burmese intelligence units, and has given generously to a number of government projects and schools—including a recent donation of 100 million kyat (nearly US $100,000) to Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.