A prominent Wa businessman closely connected to the United Wa State Army (UWSA) has reportedly taken refuge in the armed ethnic group’s territory in northeastern Shan State to escape arrest for drug-related offenses, according to sources.
Aik Hawk, also known as Hsiao Haw, is a Rangoon-based businessman in his late 40s and son-in-law of UWSA President Bao Youxiang. His decision to flee to UWSA-controlled areas was apparently prompted by a recent crackdown on drug-smuggling operations in the former Burmese capital.
Aik Hawk is the principal owner and managing director of Yangon Airways and chairman of Tetkham Co Ltd, which runs hotels around the country. The company is also involved in the gems industry and construction projects.
“You can get anything you want at Tetkham hotels,” said a business source in Rangoon, referring to the hotels’ notoriety as venues for prostitution.
Like most successful businessmen in Burma, Aik Hawk is also close to senior generals in the country’s ruling junta. He often travels abroad, especially to Malaysia and Singapore, where he knows many diplomats.
According to a business source, Aik Hawk was close to former Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt, who was purged in 2003. His company worked on several large construction projects with the Yangon City Development Council.
More recently, he has bankrolled business enterprises run by several high-ranking generals, including Lt-Gen Myint Hlaing, the former commander of the Northeast Regional Command and current chief of the Air Defense Bureau.
Many of Aik Hawk’s investments have been tainted by association with Burma’s booming drugs trade. In the late 1990s, Aik Hawk bought shares in Myanmar Mayflower Bank, which was shut down in 2003 because of links to drug-trafficking organizations.
According to the Shan Herald Agency for News, Aik Hawk is a principal shareholder in Mong Mau Co., one of around 30 subsidiaries of the UWSA-owned Hongpang Co.
He often travels to Wa-controlled territory and frequently calls on Wei Hsueh Kang, an infamous drug kingpin currently operating as the southern commander of the UWSA, according to sources.
Rangoon business sources say that one of Aik Hawk’s most important services to his business partners is laundering drug profits through government-sponsored gems auctions.
“He is a well-known gems broker,” said one Rangoon-based businessman.
Last week, tensions between the Burmese army and the UWSA rose over the latter’s refusal to hand Aik Hawk over to the Burmese authorities, who believe he is being protected by UWSA forces at their headquarters in Panghsang.
On Friday, the state-owned Myanmar Ahlin said that police, military and customs officials seized 148 kg of heroin in January. Some of those arrested in connection with the crackdown were known associates of Aik Hawk.