Tay Za chairs the Htoo Group of Companies and Zaw Zaw runs the Max Myanmar Group of Companies. They were honoured with the title for their “outstanding work” in helping Myanmar develop its economy and for their contributions to the development of professional football (soccer) in the country. In fact, their close ties to the junta's top generals have won them lucrative business concessions in a number of key industries, including logging, gems and jewellery, tourism and transportation.
In complete disregard of the law and human rights, the two have been involved in international trade, exporting rice, rubber and other agricultural products and importing machines. Last year, they both entered the field of professional sports promotion, playing a key role in the creation of Myanmar’s new national football league. They are also among the largest investors in the regime’s newly built Yadanabon Cyber City near Mandalay.
Although dominant figures in Myanmar’s business world, they are international pariahs. Both they and their companies are under Western sanctions.
According to the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, Tay Za is “an arms dealer and financial henchman of Burma's repressive junta,” whilst Zaw Zaw’s Max Myanmar has provided important services in support of the regime, particularly in the form of construction projects.
Chan Tun, a veteran politician in Rangoon, said that in the past, the title of Thiri Pyanchi was awarded to hardworking officials and businessmen whose efforts benefited the people. “Now it is for cronies who contribute to the businesses of the generals.”