NLD's Ex-Yangon Chief Let Off With Fine After Testifying Against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

By The Irrawaddy 22 February 2023

Myanmar’s military regime has let former Yangon Region chief minister U Phyo Min Thein off with a fine after he testified against ousted State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in a corruption case. The former Yangon chief was fined 100,000 kyats, or about US$40, for alleged electoral fraud by a junta court.

U Phyo Min Thein as Yangon Region chief minister at the regional parliament in 2018. / The Irrawaddy

U Phyo Min Thein testified in October 2021 that, as Yangon chief minister, he gave seven viss (around 11.4kg) of gold and US$600,000 to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 2017 and 2018. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has dismissed his claims as “totally absurd”, and was quoted as saying: “The allegations are completely false. I had no reason to take it, no reason to accept it.”

While Suu Kyi and other senior members and ministers of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government were jailed by the regime on an array of false charges, U Phyo Min Thein was only fined.

The Dagon Township court in Yangon imposed the fine last Friday after finding him guilty of abusing his power to influence the 2020 general election under Section 130(a) of Penal Code.

“Though he was not imprisoned, his political career is over,” said a Yangon resident, adding he regretted ever supporting U Phyo Min Thein.

U Phyo Min Thein once shone as the NLD government’s Yangon chief minister and senior member of the party’s Youth Affairs Committee, but was a subject of controversy in his political career.

He founded Union Democracy Party to contest the sham election in 2010 organized by the previous military regime. He then joined the NLD ahead of the 2012 by-elections, and became a lawmaker on the NLD ticket.

As a lawmaker, he served with the secretary of the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), U Aung Thaung, on the parliamentary committee on banks and finance. He also enjoyed close ties with U Aung Thaung.

He was hand-picked to become the Yangon Region chief minister following the 2015 general election after the NLD won a landslide victory.

In his early days as chief minister, he sued local outlet Eleven Media for publishing a report about him accepting a Patek Philippe watch from a businessman.

He also called the rank of military chief a post similar to that of director-general in the government, and then had to issue an apology to its holder, Min Aung Hlaing.

He had close ties with the grandsons of Myanmar’s first military dictator, General Ne Win, under whose rule Myanmar declined from a top economy in Southeast Asia to one of the world’s least developed nations.

He attracted criticism when, as chief of the Yangon Region government, he paid respect to former military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt.

The ex-general was notorious for masterminding deadly interrogations and the persecution of thousands of Myanmar’s pro-democracy activists. He locked up many dissidents in the country’s most remote prisons. Many died in detention due to lack of proper medical treatment, among other reasons. And U Phyo Min Thein himself was a former political prisoner of the previous regime.

As the chairman of the COVID-19 Control and Emergency Response Committee, U Phyo Min Thein broke the law by attending a Botataung Pagoda festival while the country was observing a ban on religious gatherings.

He was even impeached from the Yangon Region Parliament. The NLD did not choose him as a candidate for the 2020 general election.