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Knockoff Wall Street Journal to Launch in Country Without Stock Market

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U Nay Aung, a businessman in Burma -- now Myanmar -- runs IGE Co. Ltd., a conglomerate with interests in, among other sectors, oil and gas, banking, agriculture, and timber.

Now Aung is hoping to add publishing to the list.

Yesterday, the Myanmar Times reported that U Nay Aung is readying a business weekly with a familiar name.

“The title will be something like Myanmar Wall Street Journal,” a source told the paper.

Aside from the fact that the name is already taken, the launch of the Myanmar Wall Street Journal will be a tricky exercise in marketing, as the country does not have a stock exchange.

However, nobody is likely to confront U Nay Aung with even a glimmer of doubt, because, well...they're obviously scared s--tless of the guy.

See, Nay Aung and his brother Pyi Aung, are the sons of Minister of Industry-1, ex Lt-Col Aung Thaung. Thanks to their family connections to the brutal military junta that rules the country, they have become "two of the richest men in Burma" according to news outlet Myanma Thadin.

At the beginning of 2010, Myama Thadin says the regime began "
turning over ownership of gas stations and other energy-related businesses to private investors, mostly close associates of the ruling generals" -- like the Aung brothers (whose ties to the regime have led to their being barred from entering the European Union or Australia).

Aung Thuang was a close associate of General Than Shwe, who had a touch of what public relations practitioners call an "image problem."

In April of last year,
Myanmar's ruling junta gave the go-ahead "for four of its cronies to open banks" even though one businessman said, “They own too many businesses all around the country. Moreover, the government has already been in the habit of giving priority to them. When they run their new banks, we’re [Burmese banker] still unsure whether they will get favoured treatment from the junta. Fairness [in competition] is important to us."

Well, fairness is a somewhat slippery concept in a country currently holding thousands of political prisoners, ranging from comedians to Buddhist monks and nuns to journalists, poets, and politicians, according to Human Rights Watch, including
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest.

If fairness was an issue,
Aung Thuang wouldn't have made a "bid to move [IGE Co. Ltd.] into the tourism sector" two years ago in "an attempt to further diversify the family's business holdings before relinquishing his ministerial post."

Of course, it should be interesting to watch what happens when the actual owner of the Wall Street Journal -- another man with his own idea of what constitutes fairness (and balance) -- gets wind of the Aung brothers' new paper.

Now, the only question remains: will there be an iPad app?
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.