Thein Sein Admits Corruption, Bribery Are ‘Chronic’ in Burma

By Kyaw Kha 22 August 2014

RANGOON — Burmese President Thein Sein has said that corruption and bribery are still “chronic” in the country and must be addressed by a change in attitude among government officials.

The remarks were made during a speech at the Presidential Palace in Naypyidaw during a quarterly meeting of senior government officials on Wednesday, according to a transcript published on the official website of the President’s Office.

“Chronic bribery and corruption are still happening in the civil service,” the president said, according to the account of the meeting.

“Civil service officers need to change their morality and spirit to call for an end to corruption. I would like to urge to speed up the anti-corruption processes in the remaining period [of the current administration].”

Burma is ranked among the countries in the world where the perception of corruption is highest, and businesses say corruption poses a serious obstacle to their operations here.

Tackling graft is seen as a major challenge for Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government, which in 2011 took over from the military regime under which cronyism and bribery flourished at all levels of government.

An Anti-Corruption Law was passed in September 2013 and an Anti-Corruption Commission was formed this year. But questions have been raised over how effective the commission will be since it is headed and largely staffed by former military officials or ruling-party members.

Since Thein Sein’s government began opening up the economy—including by holding competitive tenders for telecommunications licenses and oil and gas exploration deals—the country has risen in corruption rankings. In its most recent global corruption perceptions index last year, Transparency International ranked Burma 157 out of 177 countries, compared with a ranking of 172 out of 176 in 2012.