Burma President’s Order Allowing Small Gifts Met With Derision

Myanmar, corruption, Burma, anticorruption, anti-Corruption commission, graft, transparencyconsidered corrupt.

Gift hampers are commonly given to senior Burmese government officials, ostensibly as a show of respect. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Burma President Thein Sein has reportedly told government officials that they can accept gifts worth up to 300,000 kyat, about US$300, without it being considered corruption.

Thein Sein’s reforming government has recently passed an Anticorruption Law and established a new anti-graft commission as it attempts to shed the country’s highly corrupt international image.

Last week, President’s Office Spokesman Ye Htut reportedly told local media that an order had gone round warning officials that accepting gifts could be considered corruption. However, the order specified that only gifts valued over 300,000 kyat would be considered as corrupt payments, Ye Htut reportedly told the Kamayut news website.

An official in the Ministry of Transport, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the details of the order to The Irrawaddy.

Reports of the order have been met with derision, and opposition politicians questioned the seriousness with which the government is taking its purported anticorruption drive.

Thu Wai, the chairman of the Democratic Party (Myanmar), said the order appeared to sanction corruption at a low level.

“If he really wants to prevent corruption, he should say there must be no bribes at all for government employees,” Thu Wai said. “I don’t understand why he said it like this. He should be clearer about it.”

Ye Htut reportedly justified the policy by saying allowing officials to accept small gifts was in line with international practice.

“I do not know about other countries’ policies, but as a president, he should say no bribes,” said Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democratic Force party.

“Actually, 300,000 kyat is not much, but the president should order to his ministries not to take any bribes of cash or presents.”

As set out in last year’s Anticorruption Law, a new commission was last month established by Parliament to investigate corruption among government officials. The members of the commission were recommended by Thein Sein himself, however, and he was criticized at the time for picking a number of former military generals like himself, including for the role of the commission’s chair.

5 Responses to Burma President’s Order Allowing Small Gifts Met With Derision

  1. How ridiculous!!!
    U Thein Sein appears to have gone out of his mind.
    He cannot even see the real difference between innocent gifts and corruption. Tea-money is a corrupt practice. So are the keys for luxury cars as gift in a birthday celebration or an anniversary. So is diversion of accounts to a foreign bank for sales of gas, minerals or timbers. And groceries for the Boss’s kitchen.
    Innocent gifts of little monetary value are among friends, between parents and offspring, teachers and pupils. If anything, regardless of size and monetary value, is given and taken between a client and an official, it is a bribe, an offense punishable under bribery and corruption law, for it is done for favour of a deed asked for and given, or an expectation of some grant or offer of an unscrupulous sort.
    I am ashamed that we have such an unscrupulous man for president.

  2. $ 300 may seem small for wealthy military people but it is big money. It does not matter how small or how big, corruption must not be tolerated. Corruption and bribery was regime’s way of earning illegal income and Thein Sein is trying to legalize it once again. It smells like rotten fish.

  3. Regardless of the value of any gifts must be considered as a bribe or corruption. Even pay for a dinner or tea ( tea money ) as a bribe . Who is going to monitor and check the value of any gifts that an officials received from any of their friends, strangers and acquaintances. It seems like those government officials cannot sleep well without corruption. They get used to take bribes and they already have their bad habits. If the government law allows any officials take less than $300 gifts and later on they can argue and fight for in court when they get arrested or they can take multiple gifts less than $300 value at a time. If the government wants to fight corruption, it must be zero tolerant of the law.

  4. Kyats 300,000 is a lot for majority of people. Please/should consider this seriously. This corruption & bribery in our country must stop as U Thu Wai said.
    Other countries’ policies in gift giving is just action of showing thoughts (remembrance) and love and it is only up to $2 only. Strictly too and if somebody give more than that the other give back and it is a shame for the giver!

  5. During U Ne Win’s era it was ‘Umataunthma thilasaunt’ (morality comes only after when one has a full stomach – according to the ideology of Communist turncoat and hypocrite Chit Hlaing). When U Ponnya said that your intestines are like rivers and your stomach an ocean thus we have never seen ministers, party officials and people from all walks of life, all those who hold ‘power to do any service of any kind’ at all became corrupted to the hilt until the whole establishment was brought down in 1988. Now, he must have no shame at all to issue an order like that, less than 300,000 kyat is permissible? Come on Mr President, where is you political integrity, corrupt conduct does not depend on the amount big or small? Saya U Kyaw Htut was right when he said if someone lacks ‘hiri’ and ‘awtapa’ (sense of shame and fear of doing bad – ahiri and anawtapa)then that person can and will commit any crime. So we have seen with U Thein Sein’s regime and the previous one in which he served as Prime Minister. Viva corruption la mia Birmania!

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