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President Thein Sein proposed on Thursday that a commission be formed to begin tackling corruption in Burma.
In a letter to the Chairman of the Union Parliament, Thein Sein recommended 15 members; five were selected by the president, five by the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house) and five by the Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house).
Former Maj-Gen Mya Win was recommended as Chairman with former ambassador U Tin Oo also among the proposed members.
The list almost exclusively includes former military officials.
The newly passed Anti-Corruption Law mandates that the commission be an independent body of respected staff, separate from the legislative, administrative and judicial branches of the government, and that membership should exclude those associated with state-owned companies, those who have declared bankruptcy and those who have been charged with corruption.
“As it is meant to tackle corruption, the aim is very good,” said politician Thakhin Chan Htun. Emphasising the need for a truly “honest” board, he added, “Having a commission is better than no commission, so there will be a reduction in corruption rather than elimination.”
Thakhin Chan Htun said that he doubts it is possible to wipe out corruption in Burma. He said that U Nu had once formed a similar anti-corruption team, but that several opportunistic members used their station for personal gain.
Burma’s Anti-Corruption Law was approved in July 2013, but since that time no action has been taken. Supreme court lawyer Robert San Aung said that he wishes to see results.
“A law is in place, there should be direct action,” he said. “The commission will take some time, and corruptions will continue. Because the authorities and cronies are now above the law, I would like to see practical changes rather than the forming of a commission.”
According to the current law, corruption carries a maximum 15 year sentence for politicians. Other authorities can serve up to 10 years for a guilty verdict, as well as losing their positions. Others found guilty can serve up to seven years in jail.
Phoe Thauk Kya, a journalist, said that reporters also have the responsibility to eliminate corruption, and that not enough investigative work is being done to expose corruption in the country.
“Journalists are responsible for all the matters which hurt the people,” he said. “If we have information, we should reveal it.”
Last December, however, an Eleven Daily reporter, Ma Khine, was tried and jailed for highly contested charges after interviewing a lawyer for a story on corruption in Burma. Ma Khine was released from prison on Friday after serving a three month sentence that sparked a series of protests by fellow journalists and lawyers.
Global corruption watchdog Transparency International has Burma ranked at 157 out of 177 nations in its most recent Corruption Perceptions Index.