Myanmar Military's New Education Minister Faced Finance Probes

By The Irrawaddy 18 February 2021

Myanmar’s military regime has appointed Dr. Nyunt Pe, a former rector who was accused of misuse of university funds three years ago, as education minister in its State Administrative Council (SAC).

He was also the director-general of the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation at the Ministry of Education in Naypyitaw under the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government. But the 60-year-old retired from the director-general position about three months ago.

Dr. Nyunt Pe, an ethnic Rakhine who has a PhD from a Japanese university, worked at Pathein University for more than a decade. He was accused of misusing funds in three consecutive fiscal years from 2015 to 2018 when he was the rector at Pathein University in Ayeyarwady Region. He was moved to the ministry’s monitoring department in late 2017. The regional government found he misused funds in May 2018.

He was also investigated by the President’s Office in September 2017 for misuse of funds that he reportedly collected from Pathein University students for the Japan-Myanmar education symposium two months earlier, the Ayeyarwady regional social affairs minister Dr. Hla Myat Thway told the media at the time.

Pathein physics students denounced Dr. Nyunt Pe’s appointment by the military on Tuesday.

Social media users who say they know about Dr. Nyunt Pe said his appointment makes them lose hope. One commenter, who said they used to work at Pathein’s botanical department, said farmers were forced to buy liquid fertilizers formulated by Dr. Nyunt Pe in cooperation with the military in the early 2000s. Dr. Nyunt Pe studied botany.

A university teacher, who said they worked closely with Dr. Nyunt Pe in Pathein, told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity on Wednesday about the fertilizer issue and Dr. Nyunt Pe’s close relationship with the military.

He said: “Dr. Nyunt Pe is a good person and academic, who has expertise in his field. But it is hard to see how he can [develop the education sector under the military].”

A university teacher protesting in Yangon told The Irrawaddy: “Besides him joining the SAC as a minister he has a history of bad behavior, so how can we trust him?”

The NLD’s education minister Dr. Myo Thein Gyi has been under house arrest since the Feb.1 coup. By Tuesday the regime had detained 452 people, of which about 30 have been released, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Nationwide rallies against the regime started on Feb. 6, joined by civil servants, including health care, teaching, transport and engineering staff.

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