Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A leaked US diplomatic cable sent from the US embassy in Rangoon to the US State Department released on the Wikileaks website disclosed how some senior Burmese generals took bribes in the period of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).
The cable said a leading Thai businessman who owned more than 100 fishing boats received fishing rights in Burmese water by bribing then Fishery and Livestock Minister Major General Chit Swe with weekly payments.
“Admitting that he personally mules in [brings in] about 50,000 dollars in cash during weekly trips to Burma, the entrepreneur said that perhaps 15 per cent of this money (US$ 7,500) was earmarked for payoffs to senior generals. The remainder goes to the Government of Burma for fishing rights,” said the leaked cable dated May 4, 1992, which was sent to the US State Department in Washington D.C.
Chit Swe was first included in SLORC in 1988 as commander No. 2 in the Bureau of Special Operations. He then became Minister of Fishery and Livestock and was then promoted to Lieutenant General rank in 1990 and was forced to retire in 1997.
“Former minister for fisheries Lieutenant General Chit Swe had long been the ‘prime recipient’. ‘Taught by the Thai,’” said the Thai source quoted in the cable.
“The minister has an exquisite sense as to how to receive a bribe and yet reserve some degree of deniability,” the cable said. “Accordingly, Chit Swe reportedly declined one-on-one sessions with the Thai businessmen, insisting that all discreet dealings be with his son.”
The cable also said that the son of Major General Chit Swe escorted departing Thai businessmen through Burmese customs without the usual checks as part of the family’s services.
“More recently, Chit Swe’s son came to the airport on 20 minutes notice to squire a group of some 60 Thai entrepreneurs through customs,” the leaked cable said.
The Thai businessman said other members of SLORC with whom he dealt included then Army Chief of Staff Tin Oo.
Wikileaks released another US diplomatic cable on August 30, 2011, which said SLORC Secretary 2 Major General Tin Oo and the wife of military intelligence (DDSI) chief Major General Khin Nyunt were involved in bribery cases but that General Than Shwe, who later became the junta leader in Burma, lived austerely.
The cable said Tin Oo had a reputation for “renegotiating deals and [was] otherwise difficult.”
The cable said that ever since his teenage son had received a Mercedes Benz for brokering a deal and had started driving the car around town, Tin Oo had been under close scrutiny by Burmese military intelligence (DDSI) whose agents conducted spot checks at his residence. According to the Thai businessman and another source, intelligence chief Khin Nyunt forced Tin Oo to turn the Mercedes Benz over to the Government of Burma. The leaked cable said Tin Oo, who narrowly escaped a parcel bomb attack in 1997, was killed in a helicopter crash in February 2001 near Hpa-an in Karen State.
The cable said that the Thai entrepreneur noted that several of his peers had dealings with Khin Nyunt’s wife, who had a fondness for jewelry. DDSI (Directorate of Defence Services Intelligence) Chief General Khin Nyunt became Prime Minister in 2003 and was then removed from his post after being charged with corruption and insubordination. He was sentenced to a 44-year prison term, which was suspended, and he was put under house arrest.
The Thai businessman suspected that the promotion of Lieutenant General Than Shwe to chairman of SLORC may have had something to do with allowing “corruption by other generals to increase.”
However, the U.S. diplomat wrote that the Thai businessman said that Senior-General Than Shwe “lived austerely even by Burmese standards and had little use for such Western luxuries as air conditioning.”
Than Shwe held power for more than 19 years as head of the military regime and chief of the Tatmadaw (armed forces). He resigned from his post in 2011 and now lives in Naypyitaw Zabuthiri Township. However, many observers believe that he still controls military affairs from behind the scenes.