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Myanmar businessman with alleged junta ties cleared of drug-trafficking charges by Thai court — Radio Free Asia

A Bangkok court dropped drug-trafficking charges on Tuesday against a Myanmar businessman with alleged links to the military junta who is under U.S. sanctions, and four Thai nationals, including the son-in-law of a Thai senator, citing insufficient evidence.

After the Criminal Court issued its ruling, it ordered Burmese national Tun Min Latt and the other four released from jail, where they had been in custody since their arrest in September 2022.

Among the Thais who were freed was Dean Young Gultula, whose father-in-law, Sen. Upakit Pachariyangkun, has been charged in a separate case for suspected involvement in a transnational crime organization, illegal drugs and money laundering.

“After careful consideration, [the court] found that the prosecution’s evidence lacked sufficient weight to prove the defendants guilty of all charges brought against them,” an excerpt from the ruling read.

“Furthermore, the evidence presented by the defense successfully refuted all allegations, leading to the court’s decision to dismiss [the case].”

In September 2022, Tun Min Latt and Dean Young Gultula were arrested by Thai police for alleged involvement in the illegal methamphetamine trade.

According to a report by the Reuters news agency, Thai authorities picked up Tun Min Latt in Bangkok on suspicion of laundering drug money through the electricity trade between Mae Sai, a Thai town on the border with Myanmar, and Tachileik, a town in Myanmar’s Shan state.

The Burmese businessman has investments in the hotel, energy and mining sectors, and is a close associate to Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the Burmese junta chief and 2021 military coup leader, according to Reuters, which cited three sources.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Tun Min Latt was brought to the court from jail to hear the verdict but did not speak to reporters after the ruling.

Last March, the United States government put Tun Min Latt on a list of individuals and companies with ties to the Burmese junta to be targeted with sanctions. The U.S. Treasury Department alleged he was closely connected to Min Aung Hlaing, and that his companies had imported military weapons and equipment into Myanmar.

In December 2023, prosecutors in Bangkok filed drug and money-laundering charges, among others, against Sen. Upakit Pachariyangkun. The senator, who posted 10 million baht (U.S. $287,000) bail after he was charged on Dec. 14, is scheduled to return to court on May 13 for the initial hearing in his case.

Thai news reports have linked Upakit to Tun Min Latt. After Tun Min Latt was arrested in Bangkok in 2022, Upakit denied having any close relationship to the Burmese national, the Bangkok Post reported at the time.

Upakit was appointed to the Thai Senate in 2019 by the military-led government of then-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

According to analyst Zachary Abuza, a regular contributor to BenarNews, documentation has linked Upakit and Tun Min Latt for 24 years.

In a column published by BenarNews last year, Abuza said the two had owned companies together including The Myanmar Allure Group, which developed a hotel and casino, along with power companies including United Power of Asia and its Myanmar subsidiaries.

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