Thailand arrests Myanmar military-linked businessman suspected of drug trafficking

Tun Min Latt was arrested in the Thai capital Bangkok in a dawn raid last week.
PHOTO: Unsplash

BANGKOK - Thai authorities said on Wednesday (Sept 22) that they had detained a Myanmar tycoon suspected of drug trafficking, whom three sources said was linked to the upper echelons of Myanmar's ruling military junta.

Tun Min Latt, 53, was arrested in the Thai capital Bangkok in a dawn raid last week along with three Thai nationals on charges of conspiracy to traffic narcotics and money laundering, said Thai deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen.

"Police are in the process of requesting the court for pre-trial detention," Mr Kissana told Reuters by phone.

Three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that Tun Min Latt, who has business interests in hotels, energy and mining, is a close associate of Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing and has procured supplies for the military. Myanmar state media have published pictures of him with the junta leader, including at an arms fair in Bangkok in 2019.

British authorities sanctioned one of Tun Min Latt's businesses in August in what they called an "effort to limit the military's access to arms and revenue".

A 2019 United Nations document says Tun Min Latt is the son of a retired Myanmar lieutenant colonel and that a company he part-owns had made donations amounting to about US$71,500 (S$101,000) to the Myanmar military in 2017.

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Reuters' requests for comment from Tun Min Latt and his companies were not answered. Calls to a Myanmar military spokesman also went unanswered.

In a statement, Mr Kissana later said the police anti-drugs unit had asked a court to extend the suspects' detention to gather more evidence and investigate the network. He said police also confiscated assets worth over 200 million baht (S$7.6 million) from the four suspects.

Myanmar's military seized power from the democratically elected government led by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, and has since sought to consolidate power through a deadly crackdown on opposition.

A source with knowledge of Tun Min Latt's case - who asked not to be named because they were not authorised to speak to media - said his arrest is part of a broader Thai crackdown on money laundering from narcotics in the border town of Tachileik in Myanmar's Shan state.

The Thai government's Office of the Narcotics Control Board declined comment.