Public health officials accuse department’s junta-appointed director-general of corruption

Four senior officials have requested that the military council take action against the head of the public health department in Naypyitaw for allegedly abusing her power. 

According to documents obtained by Myanmar Now, 59-year-old director-general Dr Myint Myint Than is accused of forcing staff to work overtime and carry out chores in her household, as well as soliciting bribes from pharmaceutical companies, and misappropriating funds. 

The complaint was filed in late April by Myint Myint Than’s deputies Aye Aye Sein, and Drs Htin Lin, Htun Tin and Kyaw Kankaung. 

An official in the department of public health, which falls under the junta’s health ministry in Naypyitaw, told Myanmar Now that the military council’s anti-corruption commission had started investigating the complaint. 

“The situation has become worse under her leadership, and vaccines for children under age five went out of stock,” the official said. “People used to be able to get inexpensive vaccines for polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, but now these vaccines are out of stock in the department. People have to buy them from private pharmacies.”

The complaint alleged that Myint Myint Than had misused funds for health initiatives to be implemented in coordination with international organisations, and had falsified expense reports and sold surplus medications and supplies for profit. 

“If we were to distribute one million condoms for HIV prevention, we would submit a cost estimate per condom. Even if the market rate for a condom was 100 kyat, they would write that it cost 300, 400 or 500 kyat per condom,” the official in the public health department said. 

Myint Myint Than was appointed to her role as the department’s director-general by the junta last November following the February 2021 coup. Her husband, a retired lieutenant colonel in the army, was a former classmate of the military council secretary Lt-Gen Aung Lin Dwe in the 25th intake of the Defence Services Academy. 

Dr. Myint Myint Than (center, back row) is seen with members of military council (Supplied)

Documents seen by Myanmar Now indicate that Myint Myint Than signed official orders barring health workers participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) from going abroad, as well as signing their letters of termination and demanding that they pay large fines for failing to return to work.

An internal notice circulated by the public health department on April 25 stated that some CDM staff had been fired and were required to pay 5 million kyat (US$2,700) as a punishment for walking off their jobs. The staff in question would face legal action if they failed to pay, the order said. 

Two sources from the Ministry of Health claimed that Myint Myint Than was behind the arrest of Dr Htar Htar Lin, who had led a team under the ousted National League for Democracy government to procure Covid-19 vaccines. Myanmar Now was unable to independently confirm the allegations of her connection to the case. 

Htar Htar Lin was sentenced to three years in prison by the military council on corruption charges on April 20. 

Myanmar Now contacted Myint Myint Than regarding the complaint filed against her by the deputy directors, but she did not answer the calls. 

Military-appointed health minister Dr Thet Khine Win was recently seen with Myint Myint Than representing the junta’s health ministry at an ASEAN meeting for health officials held in Bali, Indonesia.

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