Myanmar Junta Jails NLD Govt’s ‘Incorruptible’ Banking Reformer for 20 Years

By Hein Htoo Zan 16 December 2022

The ousted deputy governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, Dr. Bo Bo Nge, has been sentenced to 20 years in jail by a junta-controlled court in Naypyitaw, after being detained for nearly two years.

According to sources close to the court, he was sentenced to 12 years on corruption charges and eight years on an unknown charge on Tuesday.

The sources said Dr. Bo Bo Nge defended himself during the case.

The regime is yet to officially announce the judgment. Contacted by the Irrawaddy on Wednesday, staff at the Ottara District court in Naypyitaw confirmed the trial was held on Tuesday but did not provide details about the judgment.

U Bo Bo Nge was among senior officials, state leaders and elected MPs arrested by the military as it staged a coup on Feb.1 last year. He was seized from his home in Naypyitaw and detained for over a year before the junta brought charges and moved him to Mandalay’s Obo Prison.

The junta-appointed Anti-Corruption Commission alleged he was responsible for the loss of millions of kyats in government budget by supervising banking transactions, permits and stamp duties. The commission also accused him of corruption in transactions made with Open Society Myanmar (OSM), a non-profit founded by US billionaire George Soros.

The separate eight-year sentence may come from a charge under the Anti-Money Laundering Law, a lawyer based in Naypyitaw said.

Dr. Bo Bo Nge was a member of the economic committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2017, he was appointed deputy governor of the central bank, where he took a leading role in facilitating financial and economic reforms introduced by the NLD government.

Australian economist Sean Turnell, a former adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, said of Tuesday’s sentence: “What a profound injustice! A travesty! Bo Bo [Nge] is utterly incorruptible.”

Turnell added that U Bo Bo Nge was an honest guardian of Myanmar’s financial system, fixing and cleaning it up so that banks could finally be productive institutions for Myanmar’s development.

“He also knows more about properly regulating a financial system than anyone else in Myanmar.

“Finally, he is an honest, brave, and utterly good person,” the economist told the Irrawaddy.

Turnell was himself detained by the junta for almost two years before being released last month and returning to Australia.

Dr. Bo Bo Nge was also jailed by the previous military regime for his student activism during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.

While behind bars, he learned English from a dictionary smuggled into the prison. After his release, he fled to the United States, where he took up a scholarship at Bard College before studying for a master’s in economics at Johns Hopkins University. He specialized in financial reform and gained a doctorate from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

The Washington Post has described Dr. Bo Bo Nge’s life as an American immigrant success story, noting that he rose from washing dishes to become an economist earning a six-figure salary.

But he chose to return to his homeland after the NLD government took power in 2016 to help with Myanmar’s democratic transition.