SAC-M: Mottama Holdings identified as supplying the Myanmar military’s weapon production

June 28th, 2023  •  Category News
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SAC-M’s 16 January KaPaSa report quoted by the Irrawaddy.

Yang Ho: Myanmar Junta Arms Production’s Key Supplier

28 June 2023

Mottama Holdings has been involved in purchasing raw materials for the Myanmar military to produce weapons since the coup, said Tom Andrews, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, in his recent report. The report puts the spotlight on Yang Ho, the owner of Mottama Holdings, a business partner of the Myanmar military in steel and iron production.

The report submitted to the Human Rights Council last month says Mottama Holdings is the current intermediary between the Myanmar military’s Directorate of Defense Industries, known as Ka Pa Sa, and Chinese arms industry company North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO).

Mottama Holdings also facilitated Ka Pa Sa’s purchase of raw materials, including steel for arms manufacturing, from a Chinese-owned Malaysian company through Min Dhama Steel Structures, a subsidiary of Mottama Holdings.

Yang Ho is an ethnic Chinese Kokang born in northern Shan State. He has been a long-time partner of the Myanmar military dating back to the time of the previous junta, known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).

As a young adult, Yang Ho became a top sales executive across various industries in Taiwan and Thailand in the early 1990s, learning as much as he could about running a successful business. He returned to Myanmar in the late 1990s to join a family business in steel product trading and office furniture production.

He established Asia Metal Company (AMC), the predecessor of Mottama Holdings, in 1997 as a venture with five other businessmen. AMC grew to encompass three other companies—Asia Metal Construction, Asia Metal Industry and Manufacturing, and Asia Metal Trading.

“If Ka Pa Sa is to build a factory, it is always Yang Ho who wins the contract. The budget is not limited in building those factories. And auditing is also not allowed,” said a Myanmar military defector.

AMC specializes in factories that require blasting tunnels through mountains. No. 24 Ka Pa Sa Factory in Magwe Region’s Pauk Township, built by AMC, is a steel and iron foundry producing artillery shells.

After North Korean nationals were found to be involved in constructing its factories, the US imposed sanctions on AMC. In 2016, during the short-lived democratic transition period in Myanmar, the US lifted sanctions on a number of generals, businesspeople and companies, including AMC.

The SLORC purchased many weapons systems from China’s NORINCO and AMC won contracts to build factories and import raw materials for production of weapons systems bought from China.

AMC changed its name to Mottama Holdings in 2013. Some stakeholders quit AMC to establish their own companies. One is U Aung Myat, the chairman of Mother Group of Companies.

Special Advisory Council-Myanmar (SAC-M) said in a report that Asia Metal Company, Mottama Holdings Limited’s predecessor, was also sanctioned by the United States in 2013 for constructing buildings and supplying construction materials for a factory under the Myanmar military’s Directorate of Defense Industries.

Mottama Holdings engages in construction, trading and manufacturing, and is also involved in the hotel industry. It has nine subsidiaries and two public companies.

“Mottama is the biggest factory builder in Myanmar in the field of steel and iron. No company can compete with them,” said a construction industry source.

M Tower, a 26-story building being constructed by Min Dhama Steel Structures Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Mottama Holdings, is the tallest steel structure in Myanmar.

Min Dhama Steel Structures also won a contract to modernize Yangon Central Railway Station, which occupies over 24 hectares of land, under the U Thein Sein government.

Yang Ho has close ties with the former and current chiefs of the Directorate of Defense Industries, Lieutenant General Thein Htay and Lieutenant General Kan Myint Than.

He also has close ties with Soe Thane, who served as the SLORC’s Navy chief and later as president’s office minister in U Thein Sein’s government.

He also has personal ties with Myanmar arch-crony U Aung Ko Win, the owner of Kanbawza Group of Companies. U Aung Ko Win is believed to have shares in some of Yang Ho’s businesses. He and Ayeyar Hinthar Holdings founder U Zaw Win Shein have visited U Aung Ko Win at his house in Shan State’s Aungban every week since the coup.

Yang Ho is also a business partner of U Sitt Taing Aung, the chairman of the Myanmar Steel Entrepreneurs Association and owner of Suntac Group of Companies. U Sitt Taing Aung is a military crony who supplies weapons to the army.

According to SAC-M, U Sitt Taing Aung represented Mottama Holdings at a meeting with Czech companies specializing in steel production at a business-to-business forum in Prague in June 2019. The meeting was aimed at supplying the Myanmar military.

U Sitt Taing Aung has been blacklisted by US and other Western countries as an arms dealer for the Myanmar military.

Yang Ho’s businesses seem to be thriving despite the country’s economy being hit by sanctions and the junta’s mismanagement.

Mottama Holdings announced in early 2022 that it planned to launch nine major projects including a US$1-billion housing project towards the end of last year.

Among the projects being constructed in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, by Mottama Holdings are M Tower and HL Tower on Pyay Road, Min Residence Mottama Center and Mottama Business Tower, Bonnamy Tower and M Green Apartments in Mayangone Township, Kandawgyi Park Aquarium, and an affordable housing project in Mingalardon Township.


*Click here to see SAC-M’s correspondence with Mottama Holdings, including an open letter from SAC-M to Mottama Holdings, following the publication of its 16 January report ‘Fatal Business: Supplying the Myanmar Military’s Weapon Production’.