Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Generals in reshuffle buying diamonds, gold

Rangoon—Family members of recently retired top military officers and government ministers in Burma have been collecting diamonds, gold jewelry and solid gold, according to business sources.Diamond and gold traders in Rangoon said family members and relatives of those who have been recently removed from their top military posts and who will have to resign ministerial posts after the election, appear to be transforming their property into diamonds and gold.

“Ministers and generals don’t keep money in cash,” said a businessman in Rangoon. “They have converted it into strong and valuable items such as diamonds and gold. They don’t need to buy land and cars anymore because they already have as much they want. Those things are not as valuable and as movable as diamonds and gold that they can carry along with their families wherever they go.”

A number of jewelery dealers told The Irrawaddy that the generals’ family members did not come to the market to buy diamonds and gold, but instead send their close business associates and brokers to take care of it for them.

The current price of solid gold is 652,500 kyat [US $665] for one kyat-thar [approximately 0.015 kg].
A gold trader close to the regime’s top generals said gold bars and gold have been purchased in visses [one viss is approximately equivalent to one kilogram].

“It is really difficult to estimate the amount of gold they have,” said a gold trader. “For many years they have bought it, and they are still buying it.”
Family members of the generals are reportedly buying more diamonds than the ministers themselves.
“Diamonds are everyone’s fancy and can be worth millions or billions. Although it is small, it is a treasure that makes the possession stronger and more valuable. Families of top generals are particularly buying expensive diamonds,” said a diamond shop owner in Rangoon.

According to military sources in Naypyidaw, Snr-Gen Than Shwe is well known as the richest of the generals followed by the family of his deputy, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye.
Ministers Aung Thaung of the Ministry of Industry No. 1 and Htay Oo of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation are said to be the wealthiest among government ministers.

Almost all the important positions in the army have recently been filled with a new generation of army officers. The state-run media has been silent on the reported resignations of top military officials in the Burmese leadership structure.

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