Bullet smuggler admits to arming government-linked militias

Suspected ammunition smuggler Zaw Zaw Htet Lu.  Photo: Yangon Police
Suspected ammunition smuggler Zaw Zaw Htet Lu. Photo: Yangon Police

A Yangon man who was arrested for smuggling ammunition on Monday has confessed to police that he had been working with a captain in the Myanmar Army to deliver bullets to government-linked militias in Shan State.

Police arrested Zaw Zaw Htet Lu in Sanchaung on Oct. 1 after two boxes containing more than 9,500 bullets were discovered in a highway bus ticket shop the previous day. The boxes were given to the shopkeeper by an unidentified youth to be delivered to Muse, Shan State, but were too heavy to be loaded onto the bus.

An anonymous police officer has told Eleven that Zaw Zaw Htet Lu told police about history in the arms smuggling business. According to the confession, he previously worked as an importer of car parts from Thailand. Through that job, he met a man named Ko Ti in Mae Sot, Thailand, who had access to ammunition, as well as representatives from the Kaung Khar and Lon Htan militias – small armies that splintered off from ethnic armed organizations and were reorganized into border guard forces allied with the Myanmar military. The militia representatives told Zaw Zaw Htet Lu they had been having trouble procuring 9-millimeter rifle ammunition and asked for his help.

In one previous deal in February, Zaw Zaw Htet Lu bought 2,000 bullets for K4.4 million (US$2,900) and hired his wife’s cousin, army captain Nyi Nyi Zaw, to deliver the bullets to Muse.

In August, he bought 100 bullets for K220,000 (US$145). These bullets were later discovered by police at Zaw Zaw Htet Lu’s home in Hlaingthaya.

In early September, Zaw Zaw Htet Lu bought over 9,500 M16 bullets from Ko Ti for K9.6 million (US$6,300). These were later discovered in the bus ticket shop and led to Zaw Zaw Htet Lu’s arrest.

Police also discovered that in 2001, a military court sentenced Zaw Zaw Htet Lu to 12 years in prison over his affiliation with a gang known as the White Scorpions. He was released in the 2012 presidential amnesty.

Zaw Zaw Htet Lu is facing charges under the Arms Act. Myanmar army and police investigators are now searching for Ko Ti.

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