Ousted Myanmar Vice President Testifies in Suu Kyi’s Defense at Helicopter Trial

By The Irrawaddy 13 December 2022

Former Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio of the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government has testified against junta allegations that State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint misused public funds regarding the rental and subsequent purchase of a helicopter.

The charges are the last in a series filed by Myanmar’s military regime against the detained civilian leaders. A total of five corruption charges relate to the rental and purchase of a helicopter for use during natural disasters and state affairs, including rescues and emergencies

Both Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint are alleged by the junta to have broken the law and squandered government funds on the helicopter.

On Monday, Henry Van Thio served as a defense witness for the accused at the trial inside Naypyitaw Prison, saying all procedures and rules and regulations were followed in the rental and purchase of the helicopter.

The vice president’s testimony might carry some weight as he served as the national disaster management committee chairman under the NLD, managing disaster response, and was responsible to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint.

Former NLD social welfare, relief and resettlement minister U Win Myat Aye has also been charged with corruption over the helicopter rental and purchase.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint were both detained in the early hours of the February 1, 2021 coup, but the Myanmar military spared the two vice presidents U Myint Swe and Henry Van Thio.

Former Lieutenant General U Myint Swe has served as the acting president for the regime since the putsch. The junta continues to recognize Henry Van Thio as a vice president of Myanmar. But he has been under house arrest since the coup and has not been seen in public.

Lawyers were surprised by Henry Van Thio’s testimony on Monday. He is a former major in the military and only joined the NLD just before the 2015 general election that swept the party to power. After the victory, Henry Van Thio won a vote to become a vice president.

On Tuesday, the helicopter trial continued with minister U Min Thu of the former Union government office testifying. He insisted the helicopter rental and purchase was done in line with the relevant procedures.

U Min Thu, who has close ties with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is a former military pilot and worked at a company owned by the junta’s arch-crony U Teza.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has already been given 26 years in prison on 14 charges filed by the regime.