NLD to Discipline Karenni Chief Minister over Land Grab

By Nan Lwin 14 November 2018

YANGON—The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) will take action against Karenni State Chief Minister L Phaung Sho for breaking party discipline after he was accused of stealing land from a Catholic church compound in his constituency, a party spokesperson said.

“We [members of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee] found that he violated the party’s disciplinary rules,” spokesperson and committee member U Myo Nyunt told The Irrawaddy.

U Myo Nyunt said an investigation by the Central Executive Committee (CEC) had turned up no evidence that the chief minister had broken the law in connection with the case. However, it had determined that he failed to follow party discipline, particularly as it applies to public relations and negotiation procedures.

The spokesman declined to say what action would be taken against the chief minister. “We have decided to keep that [information] among the CEC members. We can only say that he will have to take responsibility for his failures in dealing with the public,” U Myo Nyunt said.

Father Richard Thura Tun, a leader of the Catholic church in Karenni State, alleged at a press conference in Yangon last week that the chief minister stole less than half an acre of land from the church in 2014 when he was a Mese Township assistant education officer. Last year, he secured a lease for the land, cleared it to build a home and began preparing to build a fence.

According to Father Richard Thura Tun, the 14-acre church compound has been recognized as a religious site by township authorities since 1994. The Department of Land Registration issued ownership documents for the property in 2006.

Church authorities sought help from the President’s Office, and met with NLD leaders including U Myo Nyunt in September. However, the CEC postponed its investigation until after the Nov. 3 by-election.

Father Richard Thura Tun told The Irrawaddy last week that church authorities had met the chief minister to discuss the issue twice, but he refused to return the land.

CEC member Monywa Aung Shin told The Irrawaddy that NLD leaders arranged a meeting between L Phaung Sho and church authorities last week. The church has agreed to abide by any decisions the NLD makes in trying to settle the dispute.

Monywa Aung Shin said that under the NLD’s disciplinary rules, violators are first issued a warning. If the behavior is not corrected, the offender is stripped of their duties. If the problem persists, the individual is expelled from the party.

The case is not the first in which L Phaung Sho has aroused the ire of the public. In July, Karenni youths took to the streets to object to a state government plan to put up a statue of independence hero General Aung San in the capital city, Loikaw. The demonstrations turned violent after security forces tried to halt the protesters.

L Phaung Sho’s warning to demonstrators that he would send in troops to quell the disturbances drew a public outcry. Later, the military issued a statement saying that under the country’s Constitution, chief ministers of states and regions have no authority to order military intervention in cases of emergency. In that case, the CEC told the media it had no plans to discipline L Phaung Sho.

L Phaung Sho was elected to the state legislature representing Mese’s constituency No. 2 in the 2015 general election.