Myanmar Arms Dealer Acquitted in Thai Money Laundering Case

A wealthy Myanmar arms broker with close ties to the leader of Myanmar’s brutal military regime was acquitted on Tuesday by a Bangkok court on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, raising fears that he will be free to resume his activities aiding the junta.

U Tun Min Latt, who was placed under sanctions by the United States last year for supplying the Myanmar regime with weapons, had spent 16 months in a Thai jail awaiting trial. The case is the first known instance of a close associate of Myanmar’s army commander, Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, being arrested abroad and put on trial since the military seized power in a coup three years ago.

The Thai authorities had accused Mr. Tun Min Latt and three associates of engaging in a scheme to launder drug money by using it to buy electricity in Thailand and sending it across the border to Myanmar. But the Thai criminal court found that the record of bank transactions presented by prosecutors did not provide sufficient evidence to prove the charges.

With the ruling, about two dozen family members and supporters of the accused burst into applause in the courtroom. Some wept tears of joy.

But Phil Robertson, the deputy director for Human Rights Watch in Asia, expressed disappointment.

“It’s hard to believe that a Burmese tycoon that many have referred to as being junta leader Min Aung Hlaing’s bagman got off,” he said. “The only people happy with this outcome are the junta generals who are increasingly desperate to find resources and, quite clearly, Tun Min Latt has proved very helpful in that regard in the past.”

In recent months, an armed resistance made up of pro-democracy forces and ethnic rebel groups has reported gaining ground against the military, saying it has seized hundreds of military outposts and dozens of towns in Myanmar’s border regions.

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