Burma

Lawmakers Move to Impeach Yangon Chief Minister

By Htun Htun 8 June 2020

YANGON—Yangon regional lawmakers from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) opposition, military appointees and other parties moved to impeach Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein on Friday by sending a letter to the regional parliamentary speaker.

USDP lawmaker U Tin Oo, representing the Coco Islands, submitted the impeachment letter over the chief minister’s decision to violate of the government ban on mass gatherings by attending a Buddhist religious event in the last week of May, according to U Kyaw Zeya, the regional lawmaker representing Dagon Township Constituency Two.

“The impeachment was made [against the chief minister] not only because he caused a crowd to gather for the renovation of the Botahtaung Pagoda, but also for his mismanagement, budgets and other issues, including unethical behavior for a chief minister,” said U Kyaw Zeya.

U Kyaw Zeya, who used to a member of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) but switched to the newly-formed People’s Pioneer Party, also signed the impeachment letter. He also tried to raise an urgent motion regarding the chief minister at the regional parliament, but he said he did not get any response on whether he would be allowed to raise it or not.

The Yangon Region chief minister, his wife, members of his cabinet and other officials attended a Buddhist religious event at the riverside Botahtaung Pagoda in Yangon on May 24.

The event included the launch of a raft carrying a statue of Shin Upagote—a fabled Buddhist monk who is believed to live on the high seas and protect worshippers from floods and storms. The event also included the relocation of a number of Buddha idols and a life-sized statue of Mya Nan New, a spirit (or “Nat”) known for granting the wishes of those who whisper in her ears, so that some maintenance work could be done.

As curious onlookers joined the invited attendees, the number of people at the assembly swelled into the dozens, visibly breaching an order by the Myanmar President’s Office banning mass gatherings, which remains in effect until June 15, and defying the Health Ministry’s request that citizens not organize public events and avoid gathering in groups of more than four people.

Since the event, public criticism of the Yangon government leadership has swelled. On May 29, a South Dagon Township resident filed a complaint with the Botahtaung Township police station against eight individuals, including the chief minister, under the Natural Disaster Management Law, which governs a number of pandemic-related measures. The police station has accepted the complaint and is waiting for the approval of the President’s Office to proceed.

On May 30, NLD spokesman Dr. Zaw Myint Maung said the party warned the chief minister to follow the orders, requests, instructions and suggestions issued by the National-Level Central Committee for COVID-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment.

National government spokesman U Zaw Htay told reporters in an online press conference on May 30 that the President’s Office asked the Yangon regional government to explain the gathering and said that the government will take action depending on the chief minister’s explanation.

According to Article 263 of the Constitution, at least one-fourth of parliamentarians’ signatures are needed to impeach a chief minister. Yangon region has a total of 123 lawmakers, including 31 military appointees. Once the impeachment letter is received, the speaker may form an inquiry within a specific time frame and must allow the chief minister to defend himself.

The speaker can then call a vote based on the inquiry’s findings. The vote would then need the approval of at least two-thirds of the regional parliament before being sent to the president, who has the power to dismiss a chief minister from their position.

Translated and rewritten by Nyein Nyein.

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