Burma’s Parliament Approves Anti-Corruption Bill

By Nyein Nyein 30 July 2013

Burma’s Parliament has approved an anti-corruption bill, almost a year after it was first proposed and reviewed by the legislature.

The bill was approved with a slight majority of votes during the legislature’s session on Friday, despite some objections from President Thein Sein, with 291 votes in support and 211 votes against.

Once ratified, the law will require all officials in the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government to declare their assets, and those found to be corrupt will be charged by an anti-corruption commission. The law will also require members of the anti-corruption commission to declare their assets, a provision opposed by the president.

“I agree with the MPs suggestion that the commissioners must declare their assets,” Thein Nyunt, a lawmaker from the Lower House representing the New National Democracy Party, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

The declaration of assets was a subject of great debate among lawmakers last year, when a member of the country’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) raised the proposal.

Burma is widely considered to be one of the world’s most corrupt countries. Despite public outcry over corruption, bribery is often employed as a tool for securing key project tenders or winning legal battles.

“Our country’s law enforcement must be effective—it is a priority,” said Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democratic Force. “Action should be taken regardless of race, religion or rank.”

He said graft had deep roots in the government but became worse after the 1962 military coup.

“It is important to change the people’s mindset and create an environment where people can be freed from bribery,” he said.

Last month, Burma’s Vice President Sai Mauk Kham called for greater anti-corruption efforts during a workshop in Naypyidaw to promote transparency.

“Much needs to be done to actually implement the law,” said Phone Myint Aung, a lawmaker from the Upper House.

According to the 2008 Constitution, lawmakers are not required to follow the president’s recommendations when approving a bill.