Myanmar’s Ruling Party Says Kayah State Chief Minister Removed Over ‘Personal Grudge’

By Zarni Mann 4 September 2020

MANDALAY—Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) has accused the Kayah State parliament speaker of acting on a personal grudge, rather than in accordance with the law, after the state legislature impeached the Kayah chief minister, resulting in his dismissal. The party speculated the move was designed to tarnish its image ahead of the election.

Ex-Kayah State Chief Minister L Phaung Sho, an NLD member, was accused of misusing funds earned by the state’s heavy-machinery rental service, and of failing to ensure transparency in leasing land that is used for Kayah State Day celebrations.

President U Win Myint announced on Thursday the removal of L Phaung Sho as the chief minister of Kayah State for misusing the funds, two days after the state parliament approved a motion to impeach him following an investigation into the allegations.

In a statement released Thursday after L Phaung Sho’s dismissal, the NLD said it accepted and understood the action of the President, as he has to respect the decision of the state parliament.

However, the ruling party pointed to irregularities in the formation of the investigation committee, including the fact that three of its five members were among the complainants behind the initial impeachment motion, including its chair and secretary.

Furthermore, it said the state parliament did not follow the rules of the impeachment process, as the original impeachment motion did not receive the support of the constitutionally required number of lawmakers.

“But the state parliament speaker ignored this,” the NLD said.

According to the Constitution, a complaint against a lawmaker must have the support of at least one-fourth of MPs in the legislature before it can be submitted.

Of the 20 members of Kayah State’s parliament, five signed the initial complaint against the chief minister.

However, one of the MPs later withdrew his support, leaving the motion supported by just four lawmakers—less than one-fourth. The NLD said U Hla Htwe, the speaker of the parliament, ignored the fifth MP’s withdrawal and decided to proceed with the investigation, later calling a vote on the motion in the parliament.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, the vice chairman of the NLD, told the media on Friday that the Kayah State parliament appointed one of the plaintiffs as the chair of the investigation committee, raising the possibility of bias.

“One person who signed the complaint withdrew [their support], as the accusations are personal. So, there were only four left. The number of persons filing the complaint did not reach the required minimum,” Dr. Zaw Myint Maung told media after the Mandalay regional parliament session on Friday.

Moreover, the NLD also claimed that the speaker of Kayah State’s parliament acted on a personal grudge stemming from the fact that he was not selected as a candidate for the upcoming election.

Alleging that the speaker’s action was “timed to tarnish the party’s image” with the election coming up, the NLD said: “The party views his action as not being in accordance with the law, and [motivated by] a personal grudge, as he acted along with other rejected NLD candidates and other non-NLD representatives in the parliament, because his candidacy was rejected.”

Investigation committee chair Khu Thae Rae told journalists after the parliament session on Friday that he had no personal feeling over the case.

“I did this solely for the benefit of our state and the country. There are no haters here, and we made the decision in accordance with the Constitution. This is not a personal attack, as they claim,” he said.

L Phaung Sho wrote in a farewell message on social media that he accepted the decision of his superiors, insisting he had worked hard for the development of the state following his appointment in 2016.

He is the first chief minister to be impeached by a state parliament under constitutional procedures.

In May, Daw Lei Lei Maw, the dismissed former chief minister of Tanintharyi Region, also an NLD member, was jailed for corruption.

Correction: Correction: The previous version of the story mistakenly stated Khu Thae Rae as the speaker of the Kayah State Parliament.

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