YANGON—In an unprecedented move, the Kayah State parliament on Tuesday passed a motion to impeach state Chief Minister L. Phaung Sho of Myanmar’s ruling party for misappropriating state funds, after more than two-thirds of parliamentarians voted in support of the bid.
According to the Myanmar Constitution, any motion to impeach a state chief minister that meets with the respective parliament’s approval must be submitted to the country’s president, paving the way for the chief minister’s official removal from office. Once that happens, L Phaung Sho will be the very first chief minister to be constitutionally removed into “impeached”.
The motion was approved on Tuesday by 16 of the Kayah State parliament’s 20 sitting lawmakers. In August, the chief minister was accused of misappropriating state funds and failing to return a land plot to the state for public use as ordered by the legislature.
Five local lawmakers—two from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), two from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and one from the Kayah State Democratic Party (KySDP)—signed and submitted the initial impeachment motion against the chief minister, although one of the NLD lawmakers later withdrew his support for the motion.
The motion alleged that L. Phaung Sho misappropriated funds earned by the state’s heavy-machinery rental service and leased a land plot that is the site of annual state day celebrations to businesses for up to 50 years, despite the parliament’s decision that the plot is to be kept as a public place.
According to Article 263 of the Myanmar Constitution, an impeachment motion against a chief minister can be submitted to the speaker of the state/regional parliament provided it has the support of at least one-fourth of lawmakers. Once the impeachment letter is received, the parliament is required to form an investigation body to conduct an inquiry and the chief minister must be given a chance to defend himself.
Yet, according to the investigation committee, the chief minister never showed up to address the accusations.
In his address at the start of Tuesday’s parliamentary session before lawmakers voted on the impeachment proposal, L. Phaung Sho questioned the impartiality of the five-member investigation committee, pointing out that the chairman of the body and two other members are among those who submitted the impeachment motion against him.
“We need to be mindful not to act impartially or unfairly. If we are not, it will damage the reputation of our parliament. You need to be aware that your reputation can also be tarnished. We are not ordinary people. We, as the people’s representatives, must refrain from personal injustice.”
An impeachment motion against a chief minister requires the support of at least two-thirds of state/regional lawmakers to pass. In the Kayah State parliament, the NLD holds 50 percent of seats and the USDP, the military appointees and then KySDP jointly hold the other half.
L. Phaung Sho was elected to the state parliament in the 2015 general election from Mese Township. He has announced that he will run in the same constituency in November’s general election representing the NLD.
In June, Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, who is also a member of the NLD, faced an impeachment motion filed by one-fourth of Yangon parliamentarians. However, the impeachment attempt against him failed to garner enough support in the NLD-dominated regional parliament to pass.
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