IT giant Microsoft has signed an agreement of cooperation with Myanmar’s notorious Shwe Taung Group.
In September, Microsoft also went into a partnership with the Kanbawza Group which has businesses ranging from precious minerals to banking.
Greeting the news of the second-largest venture signed by Microsoft in Myanmar, the Financial Times carried the headline: “Microsoft enters minefield of Myanmar business with IT deal.”
Both Shwe Taung and Kanbawza have long been under fire domestically and internationally for cronyism with Shwe Taung’s controlling shareholder Aik Htun suspected by the US Treasury of narcotics connections.
Likewise, Aung Ko Win, Kanbawza chairman, has faced EU trade sanctions for his connections with the military junta, which were retracted in 2011 when the quasi-civilian government took charge.
Both Aik Htun and Aung Ko Win denied the charges.
Other American companies like Coca-Cola and Caterpillar have also made murky deals in Myanmar. Coca-Cola admitting to having investments in the jade trade, which carries US sanctions, and Caterpillar’s Myanmar boss, Zaw Bo Khant, was also reported to be involved in the jade trade, according to a recent Global Witness report.
The Microsoft deal is being seen as the first of many foreign partnerships made in the wake of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy’s landslide victory on November 8.