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Lawsuit looms as media exposes graft

Burma’s mining ministry is weighing up the possibility of filing a lawsuit against a local news journal over an article it published concerning the ministry’s alleged misappropriation of budgets.

Officials have denied the accusation made by the Voice Weekly, according to the state-run Kyemon newspaper, and may press charges against the publisher and author of the article, headlined ‘Audit finds billions of Kyat misappropriation by some ministries’.

The article cites a report submitted to the Public Accounts Committee by the Union Auditor General’s Office saying that 50 percent of the shares for a copper mine in Sagaing division owned by an enterprise under the mining ministry were sold to the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings for US$100 million.

The payment was made by a ‘foreign company’, which is rumoured to have been Chinese owned.

A member of staff at the Voice Weekly told DVB that the publication has substantial evidence to back its claims. The report also claimed the Ministry of Information had pocketed more than two billion kyat ($US2.5 million) after selling off the government’s newspapers, and mentioned the Ministry of Industry-1’s siphoning of more than 200,000 gallons of oil from Chauk Oil Refinery in Magwe division.

Parliamentary representative Dr Aye Maung, of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said the UAGO’s report that was distributed in parliament showed the state’s mining arm had embezzled more than $US3 million from the copper mine in Monywa.

Thet Zin, chief editor of Rangoon-based Myanmar Tribune, said state-run newspapers’ announcement of the lawsuit could be taken as a veiled threat aimed at all media outlets in the country.

Following Kyemon’s article, other well-known media outlets, the Weekly Eleven and Messenger News, published op-eds criticising the newspaper’s report as a one-sided threat on the country’s ‘fourth estate’, referring to media.

“I think it is inappropriate for the state-run media to publish something like this,” said Thet Zin. “This is a matter that concerns the mining ministry, but the state-owned newspapers published the ‘report’ [about the lawsuit] and I can actually sense some [anger] in it.”

The chief editor said that reporting on a verdict once a trial had been carried out would have been the better move.

The Modern Weekly has also had its fair share of trouble as of late.  The journal’s editor and a reporter were sued by Thabeikkyin township’s state engineering firm for publishing a report concerning the poor road conditions in the town.

Additional reporting by Aye Nai 


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