‘This doesn’t end here’ vows NLD chief minister after impeachment for corruption

The National League for Democracy (NLD) came to power in 2016 promising to root out the scourge of corruption in public life in Myanmar. 

But as its first term draws to a close, two of its chief ministers have been toppled for skimming public funds. For some, that is evidence the party is indeed being tough on graft and is going after senior offenders.

But it is also feeding a perception that the NLD is part of the problem, not the solution.  

More than three quarters of lawmakers in Kayah state’s parliament voted on Tuesday to impeach L Phaung Sho, who deposited hundreds of millions of kyat of public money into his private account – before spending a large chunk of it on himself. 

It follows the jailing in May of Lei Lei Maw, the former NLD chief minister for Tanintharyi. She received a 30-year sentence for, among other things, selling her house for well above market value to a company that she awarded several lucrative public contracts in return. 

Sixteen of the Kayah state legislature’s 20 MPs voted in a secret ballot to impeach L Phaung Sho following a two-week probe into his handling of public funds. 

The constitution requires at least two thirds of MPs to vote in favour of impeaching a chief minister. 

L Phaung Sho was defiant after Tuesday’s vote. “I want to say the case does not end here. The truth will be revealed in the end,” he told journalists.

His actions were in line with financial policies under the authorisation of the state government, he added. 

And he said it was improper that the five-member investigation team included the same MPs who had made the complaint against him. 

“The public may perceive the plaintiffs have acted as judges if the complainants are also the investigators,” he said. 

The resolution to impeach must now be submitted to president Win Myint for approval, a formality required by the constitution. 

Theh Reh, the MP who led the investigation, said his team has done its duty. “The president will decide on further action,” he said.

It is unclear if L Phaung Sho will now face criminal charges. In 2018 the Anti-Corruption Commission failed to act on a complaint about him regarding his use of funds from leasing heavy machines, said Theh Reh. 

He said the commission did not pursue the case for various reasons, though he did not elaborate. 

The parliamentary investigation found that the chief minister repeatedly failed to follow a motion agreed by MPs to keep a three-acre plot of land public and not lease it to private companies. 

He gave approval for restaurants, sport centers, water factories and bungalows to lease the land, the team said. 

He also stole 37.7m kyat ($28k) from funds made on the lease of 18 government-owned machines, the team found. Only a fraction of the money made it into a government account and he deposited most of it, 495m kyat, into his personal account, it added. 

The team said it summoned L Phaung Sho four times to defend himself, but he never appeared in person, instead sending a representative to object to the investigation.

And he improperly used more than 1.3m kyat of public money for NLD party affairs, the team’s report said.

Monywa Aung Shin, secretary of the NLD’s information committee, said he was unaware of that money being spent on the party.

L Phaung Sho leased land used for the annual Kayah State Day celebrations to three companies: Nan Aye Yate, Taw Win Thazin Myint and Shan Htoo Aung. 

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