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Just seven days after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma last month, the ruling military junta parceled out key sections of the affected Irrawaddy Delta to favored tycoons and companies, including several facing sanctions from the U.S. Treasury, according to a Burmese magazine with close ties to the government.
Some of the most notorious business executives in Burma, including Tay Za and Steven Law, also known as Tun Myint Naing, were given control of "reconstruction and relief" in critical townships, under the leadership of top generals. Tay Za was identified by Treasury as a "regime henchman" this year when it slapped economic sanctions on hotel enterprises and other businesses he owns.
"The Treasury is targeting the regime's cronies, and the regime wants its cronies to get the money," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "They see it as an opportunity to profit from the international community's compassion. But these are not experts in providing relief; they are experts in running guns and drugs and making a lot of money."