Junta cannibalizes own Yangon chiefs on accusations of graft

Junta cannibalizes own Yangon chiefs on accusations of graft

Three military-appointed authorities, including ministers from the Yangon Regional Government — Hla Soe, the former prime minister, and Aung Than Oo, the former commerce minister — have been formally charged under the Anti-Corruption Law, the junta’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) stated on June 16.

This is the first instance of the junta bringing charges against members of its own government installed since the coup.

The three have been accused of bribery and embezzlement of the state funds in relation to land sold in Yangon Region while serving under the military.

Hla Soe and Aung Than Oo were charged under Sec. 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law, while Soe Soe Zaw, the regional secretary of the Yangon Region Government, was also charged under Sec. 55/63 and Sec. 56 of the Anti-Corruption Law in relation to the case.

The junta-controlled ACC claimed that more than K3.8 billion (US$2 million) of state funds were lost between June 22, 2021, and Jan. 21, 2022, due to the two ministers abusing their position to facilitate land sales. A total of 262 acres of land in different townships in Yangon’s suburbs were allegedly sold.

In addition, Aung Than Oo was accused of receiving a bribe of K5,000 lakh (US$270,000) from an owner of a construction company and Hla Soe was accused of receiving a bribe of K2,500 lakh (US$135,000). Aung Than Oo also allegedly deposited more than K9,500 (US$513,000) intended for people who had permission to use the plots into two accounts held at Myanmar Apex Bank.

The ACC added that the secretary Soe Soe Zaw was found to be involved in the loss of state funds and misused his position to sell the lands in Yangon townships.

It is unknown where the three are currently being detained, and none have commented over the allegations.

The junta’s new Yangon Prime Minister Soe Thein was appointed to replace Hla Soe on February 1. Former Economy Minister Aung Than Oo, who is also a former member of the military’s proxy party the USDP, had been dismissed from his post on June 10 this year.

The junta recently reshuffled cabinet posts and other high-level positions in its administration, while simultaneously cracking down on alleged graft amongst its cronies.