Ex-Religious Minister Proclaims Innocence on Way to Court

By The Irrawaddy 3 July 2014

RANGOON — Former religious affairs minister Hsan Hsint was taken to court in Naypyidaw on Thursday to face corruption charges, but he told assembled reporters outside the court room that he was not guilty.

Amid tight security, he was brought for trial at Pubbha Thiri Township Court in the Burmese capital. A local journalist said Hsan Hsint loudly proclaimed his innocence as he was led into the building.

“Though my stand was correct, they said they will punish me as I didn’t follow the orders of the president. I didn’t embezzle even a penny from the state budget. I swear. I haven’t done anything wrong,” he reportedly shouted.

On June 19, Hsan Hsint was sacked by President Thein Sein for “not performing his duties efficiently.” Subsequent local media reports claimed he had also been accused of misappropriating about 10 million kyats (US$10,000) from his ministry’s budget for personal family interests.

He is being charged under the Penal Code Article 409 for criminal breach of trust and Article 109 for abetting a crime.

The religious minister’s firing followed a controversial raid on a Rangoon monastery by the state-backed Buddhist clergy, which had been in an ownership dispute with a small group of monks who declined to leave the monastery.

The raid led to the arrest of five monks. They have since been released on bail. Local media reported that the minister had a disagreement with other cabinet members over the plan to raid the monastery.