Election 2020

Chief Minister of Myanmar’s Kayah State Targeted for Impeachment Over Spending, Land Allegations

By San Yamin Aung 21 August 2020

YANGON—Kayah State Chief Minister L Phaung Sho of Myanmar’s ruling party is being targeted for impeachment by local lawmakers for allegedly misappropriating state funds and failing to return a land plot to the state for public use as ordered by the legislature.

Five of the 20 lawmakers in the state legislature—two from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), two from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and one from the Kayah State Democratic Party (KySDP)—signed and submitted the impeachment motion against the chief minister on Aug. 12, although one of the NLD lawmakers has since said he no longer supports the motion.

According to Article 263 of the Myanmar Constitution, an impeachment motion against a chief minister can be submitted to the speaker of the state/regional parliament provided it has the support of at least one-fourth of lawmakers. Once the impeachment letter is received, the law requires that an investigation body is set up within a specific timeframe to conduct an inquiry, and that the chief minister be given a chance to defend himself. An impeachment motion against a chief minister requires the support of at least two-thirds of state/regional lawmakers to pass.

The Kayah State parliament formed an investigation committee to probe the allegations contained in the impeachment motion on Aug. 14. The committee has been told to present its findings to the parliament by Aug. 28.

Citing an audit report, Khu Theh Reh of the KySDP, who chairs the investigation committee and is among the five who signed the impeachment letter, said one of the accusations the lawmakers made is that L Phaung Sho misappropriated funds earned by the state’s heavy-machinery rental service.

Another accusation in the letter is that the chief minister leased a land plot that is the site of annual state day celebrations to businesses for up to 50 years, despite the parliament’s decision that the plot is to be kept as a public place.

The effort to impeach L Phaung Sho hit a snag on Thursday, however, when NLD lawmaker U Thein Aung, who signed the impeachment letter, submitted an objection letter against the motion, saying the accusations against the chief minister were false.

In his objection, the lawmaker said he was forced to sign the impeachment letter by the speaker. He added that he recklessly signed the letter without properly reading its contents and said he was withdrawing his name from the complaint.

“It is not possible that he [U Thein Aung] didn’t know what was in the letter; there were some typos and omissions in the first impeachment letter, so we made some corrections. Thus, we all signed the letter twice. How did he sign it both times without reading it?” Khu Theh Reh said.

He added that despite the NLD lawmaker’s withdrawal from the complaint, the committee would continue its investigation into the chief minister and present its findings to the state parliament.

The Irrawaddy made several calls Friday to the state parliament speaker and chief minister, as well as U Thein Aung, but they could not be reached for comment.

L Phaung Sho is the second chief minister to face an impeachment motion following Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, who is also a member of the NLD. In June, one-fourth of Yangon parliamentarians submitted a motion to impeach U Phyo Min Thein. However, their attempt to impeach him failed to garner enough support in the NLD-dominated regional parliament to pass.

In the Kayah State parliament, the NLD holds 50 percent of seats and the USDP, the military appointees and then KySDP jointly hold the other half.

L Phaung Sho was elected to the state parliament in the 2015 general election from Mese Township. He has announced that he will run in the same constituency in November’s general election.

He will meet with the investigation committee on Aug. 25 to defend himself against the accusations, according to the investigation committee.

Zue Zue contributed to this report.

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