Naypyitaw Govt Resumes Stalled Probe of Land Allegedly Owned By U Thein Sein

By Htet Naing Zaw 11 October 2018

NAYPYITAW — The Naypyitaw Council has approved a request to resume an investigation into land purchases in Ottarathiri Township where former President U Thein Sein and members of his cabinet are accused of having acquired some 900 acres without going through proper channels.

An investigation had begun with the council’s approval in late August but was soon suspended for unexplained reasons.

U Maung Maung Swe, a member of Mandalay Region’s Upper House of Parliament who was leading the original task force, asked the council to once again approve the investigation. The council approved the request after consulting with and securing a positive recommendation from union Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Minister U Aung Thu, who also chairs the Central Committee for the Management of Vacant and Virgin Land.

The team will include both lawmakers and government officials.

“The council approved my proposal because of the complaints from farmers. A team recently investigated the issue after the farmers complained to them. But there were some difficulties, so I sought the approval of the council,” he said.

The lawmaker denied widespread speculation that the investigation was deliberately targeting U Thein Sein and his former ministers. He insisted it was started without any consideration of who the owners were.

“Plans have been submitted to expropriate 12,000 acres of land. We are just focusing on whether they got the permits to use the land properly and whether they are really using it. It is just an easygoing case,” U Maung Maung Swe said.

The land acquired by the former president and 15 others was approved for growing three types of cash crops — mangos, rubber and agarwood. A source close to the business community has told The Irrawaddy that the land was sold to anyone who could buy at least 50 acres at 50,000 kyats ($31) per acre.

“If you ask me whether we can investigate all the cases that involve the land, we have to say no. We have plans to go step by step and we will investigated the matter in accordance with the instructions,” U Maung Maung Swe said.

Translated from Burmese by Myint Win Thein.