Irrawaddy Natural Resources Minister Resigns, Cites Poor Health

By Salai Thant Zin 3 January 2018

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Region — The Irrawaddy regional minister for natural resources, environment, agriculture and livestock has decided to submit his resignation on health grounds.

“My health is not good. I am no longer physically fit to perform my duties. So, I’ll submit my resignation,” minister U Ba Hein told The Irrawaddy.

The agriculturalist and author on agricultural science was appointed to the current ministerial position as of April1 last year in the Irrawaddy regional government led by Mahn Johnny.

During his tenure, the minister helped groups of small-scale fishermen win tenders at low prices for fishery ponds that were otherwise monopolized by rich fishery businesspeople for years.

As a result, wealthy fishery businesspeople in the Irrawaddy Region filed complaints in 2016 against him with President U Htin Kyaw, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and chairman of the parliamentary Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission U Shwe Mann, and U Ba Hein had to explain.

On May 31 last year, around 300 fishermen staged a protest against U Ba Hein, alleging that the minister abolished fishery pond leases granted in line with the law by the previous government, and that he violated the standard procedures and directly sold fishery pond leases to unlawfully-formed groups of fishermen.

U Ba Hein is a reformist, and his proposed resignation is due to the fact that he is restricted to undertake reforms, suggested director U Tin Lin Aung of Green Peasant Institute, an agricultural training school based in Pathein, the capital of the Irrawaddy Region.

“The minister tried to help small-scale fishermen get leases for fishery ponds. He also wants to handle land confiscation cases. But, there are legal loopholes and the overall authority is not in his hands, but in the hands of the chief minister,” said U Tin Lin Aung.

“So, there must be a lot of difficulty for him to do what it takes to make those reforms. He gave the excuse of ill health for his resignation to avoid offending anyone, I think,” he suggested.

The previous regional government of the Union Solidarity and Development Party led by U Thein Aung had two separate ministries—the forestry and natural resources ministry and the mines, agriculture and livestock ministry. But the National League for Democracy government combined them into one.

In February, the Mon State Chief Minister U Min Min Oo resigned from his post amid a scandal regarding his performance. In November 2016, U Htun Win, the deputy minister for agriculture, livestock and irrigation, was sacked by President U Htin Kyaw, after a dispute with his chief minister Dr. Aung Thu.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.