Election 2020

Myanmar’s Election Body Confesses Sloppy Checks on Disgraced Party Leader

By Htun Htun 21 October 2020

Yangon — Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has admitted that it has weaknesses in scrutinizing when escapee U Kyaw Myint, also known as Michael Kyaw Myint or Michael Hua Hu, applied to chair the United Democratic Party (UDP), better known as the Rose Party.

UEC member U Myint Naing told a press conference on Tuesday: “We failed to scrutinize properly at the time. We had weaknesses. We should have carried out more scrutiny.”

The UDP was established in 2007 in Canada and registered with the UEC in 2010 with a party chair named “U Hla Myint”.

It was officially registered as a political party and U Kyaw Myint then took over as chair in 2014. At the time, former Lieutenant General U Tin Aye was the chairman of the UEC.

The UEC reportedly asked the Home Affairs Ministry to scrutinize the background of U Kyaw Myint when he applied to chair the party. But the ministry was not able to do so as U Kyaw Myint was abroad at the time. So the UEC approved the application as it was, while U Kyaw Myint filled in someone else’s citizenship card number.

“We should have kept checking facts. We should have asked when he would be back but we failed to do so,” said U Myint Naing.

According to government spokesman U Zaw Htay, the citizenship ID number that U Kyaw Myint filled in belonged to a man in Shan State’s Kutkai Township.

U Kyaw Myint did not apply for his ID through official procedures but instead military intelligence arranged it for him under military rule, as a representative of an ethnic armed group while Myanmar’s military was making peace with rebel armies.

He was sentenced to nine years in prison in January 1998 for flouting business laws after his Myanmar Kyone Yeom enterprise was implicated in money laundering. After nearly a year in prison, he escaped in January 1999. In 2014, he entered Myanmar through Muse on the Chinese border. He opened his party headquarters in Naypyitaw and also started businesses.

Myanmar’s government launched an investigation after his shady past come under the spotlight. Police arrested him at his lavish Pan Hlaing housing estate home in Yangon on Sept. 29 and sent him to Obo Prison in Mandalay.

The investigation found U Kyaw Myint financially supported his party with money illegally transferred from China in Ruili and Jiegao, breaching the Political Party Registration Law. The UEC has disbanded the party following the official investigation.

U Kyaw Myint has allegedly spent 13.89 billion kyats (US$10.72 million) on the party so far, including providing 300,000 kyats ($232) to each of the 716 UDP candidates for November’s election.

Article 19 of the Political Parties Registration Law says a disbanded party’s assets must be handed over to the government.

The UDP did not win a single seat in the 2010 and 2015 general elections, but it was due to field 1,129 candidates in the November election, the second-largest number after the National League for Democracy.

On Tuesday, Chanayethazan Township Court in Mandalay heard five witnesses, including former Obo Prison governor who was sentenced to nine years in prison for the escape of U Kyaw Myint. The tycoon faces prosecution under Article 224 of the Penal Code for escaping from prison, which carries a jail term of two years.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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