President seeks changes to anti-graft body, including new chief

President seeks changes to anti-graft body, including new chief

A presidential proposal submitted to the Union Parliament is seeking to reshuffle Burma’s existing anti-corruption commission, naming Aung Kyi, a former information minister under the previous military-backed government, as its chairperson.

Mahn Win Khaing Than, speaker of both the Upper House and the Union Parliament, on Monday told lawmakers that four commissioners out of a proposed 12-member anti-graft body were nominated by the president while eight others were nominated by the speakers of the Union legislature’s upper and lower chambers. As currently constituted, the commission has 15 members, all of whom were appointed by President Htin Kyaw’s predecessor.

The newly proposed anti-corruption body consists largely of retired government officials. The former chief of the national police force, Major-General Zaw Win, is among the proposed commissioners.

At least one prominent legal voice is unimpressed by the new slate of graft-busters, however. Lawyer Robert San Aung said the commission offered little hope for the fight against corruption in Burma, which consistently fares poorly on indices that seek to measure the prevalence of graft in countries globally.

“Those people were the officials who ‘had the time of their lives’ during the years of the ‘Burmese Way to Socialism,’ SLORC and SPDC,” he said, referring to two iterations of Burma’s former military governments, the State Law and Order Restoration Council and the State Peace and Development Committee.

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“If they, who have connections to high-level and low-ranking bureaucrats, are appointed as commissioners, there would not be any differences. There is no way any progress can be made.”

The sitting head of the anti-corruption commission is a senior Tatmadaw official, retired Major-General Mya Win. The new chair hopeful Aung Kyi was also a top Tatmadaw official, holding the rank of major-general and later appointed to multiple cabinet postings, including as former President Thein Sein’s information minister from 2012-14.

The website of the present anti-graft body indicates that 4,350 corruption cases were reported, with just 46 having been investigated and seen action taken in connection with the probes.

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