Burma once enjoyed economic prosperity and Burmese business people were famous for enjoying prestigious and luxurious lives compared to others in the region especially its neighbors. There were even some rich men who could afford to buy airplanes and ships for their personal pleasure. However, since Burma fell under the State-controlled economy fashioned by Gen Ne Win’s Burmese Way to Socialism, the country became one of the poorest nations in the world and an economic "wasteland" for the business community. The post-Socialist period started in 1988, when the military reintroduced a market economy to the country with the hope that economic success will bring the political legitimacy that the blood-tainted junta desperately needed. However, interestingly, the return of business tycoons has created domestic and international controversies and inquires due to their shady background and connections. The Irrawaddy presents these four powerful tycoons of Burma in this issue as the first part of a series of in depth profiles of movers and shakers in business and other aspects of Burmese society.
U Eike Htun
Asia Wealth Bank
Olympic Construction Company
Despite being a well-known businessman in Burma, little is known of U Eike Htun’s shady background and business connections. U Eike Htun is ethnic Kokang and is believed to be involved in the drug trade. U Eike Tun is Managing Director of one of the most successful construction businesses in Burma—the Olympic Construction Company, which was established in 1990. In collaboration with the government Housing Development Agency and Yangon Municipality, Olympic Construction Co. has engaged in recent housing projects such as Wisaya Plaza, Myaing Haywin Housing, Kanthaya Plaza and Olympic Tower. The Company is also engaged in agricultural projects in the Delta and Magwe Divisions and the Eight Mile Junction Supermarket which has been in business since 1999.
U Eike Tun is also a vice president of a sister company of the Olympic Construction Company—the Asia Wealth Bank. The Asia Wealth Bank was established in 1994 and is one of Burma’s best known private commercial banks with many branches in Burma. The bank’s chair is U Win Maung who speaks little Burmese and is also thought to be Kokang-Chinese. U Eike Htun however is articulate in Burmese and frequently appears at public ceremonies and meetings. He has good connections with top ruling leaders notably, Lt Gen Khin Nyunt.
Many businessmen conclude the bank’s success is due to the bold risks it has taken compared to competitors. Asia Wealth Bank has received substantial support from Chinese business interests. The bank has introduced and distributed bankcards, gift cheques, and travelers cheques. The Asia Wealth Bank introduced "New Generation" credit cards to its clients at the end of 1999. It is the only private bank that provides safe and security boxes to clients.
U Eike Htun’s name was recently mentioned in Bangkok-based newspapers and allegations that he was closely involved in the Burmese drug trade were repeated when he was invited to attend the Asian Development Bank conference held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in May 2000.
U Htay Myint
Yuzana Co Ltd
Yuzana Super Market,
Hotel and Plaza
U Htay Myint is one of the wealthiest businessmen from southern Burma. He is chairman of Yuzana Co Ltd which was established in 1994. U Ktay Myint is very close to Lt Gen Khin Nyunt and it is believed that Khin Nyunt owns shares in Yuzana Co Ltd.
Yuzana Company is well-known for its involvement in housing projects in Rangoon. It also engages in hotel, department store, supermarket, agriculture and fishery businesses.