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Sanction-hit Air Bagan keen to launch new routes

Rangoon (Mizzima) - Air Bagan, owned by Burma's business tycoon Tay Za, is keen to launch new air routes.

Tay Za, close to the junta leaders, is one of the business tycoons under US economic sanctions.

"Due to economic sanctions (imposed by the USA and European Union countries), we could not operate on certain routes. But in 2010-2011 during the tourist season, we want to try to operate on new routes, though it cannot succeed if sanctions continue," said an Air Bagan officer, who did not want to be named. The new routes that it is keen on are: Rangoon-Bangkok and Rangoon-Singapore.

Although he did not mention the effects of sanctions on the airline, he admitted that there have been problems in buying spare parts of aircrafts as well as paying salaries to the airline staff through foreign banks due to the sanctions.

Tay Za was described by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as "an arms dealer and financial henchman of Burma's [Myanmar’s] repressive regime". After the brutal crackdown on the monk-led democracy protests in Burma in 2007, the United States and European Union expanded targeted sanctions on individuals and companies associated with the Burmese military regime. These include bank-related sanctions and visa ban. Htoo Trading Company Limited also known as the Htoo Group of Companies, owned by Tay Za, is one the business companies that is targeted under the sanctions.

Tay Za had called the sanctions "wrongful action" which were "heedlessly imposed" and denied any links with arms deals, drugs or the black market.

Air Bagan is the airline in Burma believed to be with the biggest investments. The exact figure of investment is not available.

In 2007, Air Bagan claimed to have spent over USD 1.5 million in overseas training for Burmese pilots, engineers and cabin crew.

Today it launched its new route - Rangoon-Chiang Mai (Thailand).

"There were more than 80 Thai passengers in the flight. This is the first flight (but not a scheduled flight). But we cannot yet say whether it will be a successful route or not," a sales staff at the Air Bagan Office told Mizzima over telephone.

There are a total of six aircraft -- two Fokker aircrafts, two ATR 42 (twin-turboprop, short-haul regional airliner built  in France and Italy by ATR company) aircrafts and two ATR 72 aircrafts. In the domestic sector, it claims to operate to 17 destinations including the main tourist destinations such as Rangoon, Mandalay, Sittwe and Putao.

Due to the sanctions, Air Bagan withdrew the from Bangkok-Rangoon route and in 2008, it stopped its Singapore route. Two of its aircrafts have been grounded at Rangoon (Mingaladon) Airport for some time now.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 07 January 2010 21:52 )  

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