Chief Minister of Myanmar’s Bago Region Apologizes for ‘Marry-a-Teacher’ Remarks

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 29 October 2019

Bago Region Chief Minister U Win Thein has formally apologized to the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation (MTF) for remarks that were seen as encouraging sexual harassment of village teachers.

On Oct. 5, the chief minister told villagers in Damangae, Nattalin Township, that they should try to marry teachers to encourage them not to leave the village.

U Win Thein said: “A lack of staff housing is good. Teachers will marry villagers and stay in the village. Villages will face teaching shortages if the staff move on, so the villagers should propose to the teachers.”

Audio recordings of his comments sparked a social media backlash with people fearing the remarks could encourage harassment of isolated female teachers in remote villages.

A 34-year-old widow and a mother of two teaching in Tatpuaung Village in Magwe Region was murdered in late September by a 20-year-old villager after she rejected his advances and informed the village administrator.

The MTF demanded a public apology from the chief minister and called on the government to work to solve the difficulties – including poor pay and a lack of accommodation – facing village teachers.

The body demanded that the National League for Democracy (NLD) take action against the chief minister.

U Win Thein apologized to teachers at the NLD central office at Bahan Township in Yangon.

“The chief minister deeply apologized to us, meeting us separately. We welcome the comments and are satisfied with his apology,” Dr. Sai Khai Myo Tun, a lecturer in international relations at Yangon University and president of the MTF, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

The chief minister promised to solve the difficulties facing teachers as much as he could, the MTF said.

NLD spokesperson Dr. Myo Nyunt told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the party itself only intervened in cases where party rules have been broken, adding that this was not such a situation. He said the case involving the Bago chief minister, as reported by the MTF, was a matter of government administration.

Mon State Chief Minister Dr. Aye Zan also caused controversy last year when he suggested that families cope with rising prices by eating less.

He also told a rice farmer to address a snail infestation on his land by eating them.