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Junta “questions” its new Yangon mayor and business chief as purge rumors spread

The military-installed mayor of Yangon, Bo Htay, and Yangon Region commerce minister, Aung Than Oo, were arrested yesterday afternoon and accused by the junta of illegally granting land permits for development projects in Yangon.

The pair’s detention came one day after arch-crony Khin Shwe and son Zay Thiha were sent to Insein Prison on charges related to land, causing Burma’s rumor mill to go into overdrive on speculation that the military may be initiating a purge.

Alongside the mayor and his business minister, a head of YCDC’s land department was also reported to have been detained yesterday. The arrests are believed to relate to the granting of multiple purpose usage licenses to farmland, something which is not permitted without the express approval of the regional government and the reclassification of the land in question.

Aung Than Oo is accused of granting a “Lana 39” approval permit to the family of ex-general Hla Htay Win, allowing them to develop beachfront farmland in Yangon’s Dala township (in an area popular with the military and its cronies known as “President’s Beach”).

Junta mayor Bo Htay was reported to have been identified as an accomplice. The stooge mayor served as head of YCDC’s Engineer Department under the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) junta and had retired in 2015. He was rehabilitated after the coup and appointed by the junta as mayor of Yangon.

Aung Than Oo is a former USDP representative for Yangon’s Thanlyin township, a rice mogol said to be the major supplier of the grain to the military, and, allegedly, the financier of pro-military militias and the “5,000 kyat wage earner” paid protesters who have been a fixture of the military’s PR strategy since the coup.

In his press conference today, junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun admitted that the pair had been “called in for some questions”, but said that they had not been “arrested”. The Irrawaddy speculated that their detention had more to do with long-running power struggles between the current chair of the military’s MEC conglomerate, Gen. Nyo Saw, and Gen. Hla Htay Win – with Nyo Saw appearing to be in ascendance.

The news of the junta’s canning of its YCDC leaders last night broke in lock-step with a slew of other rumors. Notably, the military’s former minister of information and veteran power broker, Ye Htut, was said for the second time since the coup to have been arrested by security forces (this time by The Ayeyawaddy Times outlet, which has since apologised for the confusion caused).

Ye Htut took to Facebook this morning to laugh off the claims. He also poked fun at additional rumors which had simultaneously heralded the arrests of the former minister for home affairs, Lt. Gen. Kyaw Swe, and the son of Shwe Mann (and son-in-law of recently arrested crony Khin Shwe), Toe Naing Mann.

Zaw Min Tun also denied the arrests of all three men during his presser today: “We know Toe Naing Mann isn’t in the country; the arrest of Ye Htut is a frequent news item; and Gen. Kyaw Swe is now in Naypyidaw, ready to attend Army Day celebrations,” the junta’s spokesperson gloated.

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