Saturday, October 27, 2007

FT In Depth: Burma Regime’s Cronies Feel Sanctions

Source: Financial Times

In early September, Tay Za, a charismatic Burmese businessman accused of having close links to the military junta, was in Singapore to launch a daily service between the city state and Rangoon for his airline, Air Bagan. The three-year-old carrier, which does most of its business within Burma, had launched daily Bangkok flights and hoped to make an ambitious regional expansion.

The right to operate an airline was just the latest in a series of lucrative concessions secured by Burma’s most powerful businessman, whose extensive interests range from hotels to logging and mobile phones.

But Air Bagan on Thursday announced it had been forced to suspend its Singapore flights starting on November 4, a move that came after Tay Za, his wife, his son, and his companies were blacklisted by the US as key supporters of the military regime.

The move was evidence that the international response to the military’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters last month is beginning to pinch the Burmese businessmen who until now have profited from their association with the generals who control the economy.

“They must be starting to feel a little bit encircled,” said Sean Turnell, an Australian economist who edits the journal Burma Economic Watch. “These things hurt them because they want to be seen as legitimate.”

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