President’s Office Calls Out Media Company For Alleged Govt Bribe

By Kyaw Phyo Tha & San Yamin Aung 20 April 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s President’s Office sent a warning on Wednesday to a media company who they allege gave a large monetary gift to a government official during Burma’s Thingyan festival last week.

The statement released by the office reported that a media company took part in the annual Thingyan New Year water festival in Naypyidaw by staging a pavilion and inviting ministerial officials to the performances that followed.

The announcement did not mention the media company’s name.

“Among them was a personal assistant of a ‘VIP’ who was given a package filled with five million kyats as present [by the media company],” the statement said.

It added that the individual later found the money upon inspection and complained about it to his senior officer.

President’s Office Minister Aung San Suu Kyi released guidelines on gifts for civil servants on April 4, barring any government employee from accepting anything worth more than 25,000 kyats, or just over US$20, in an attempt to fight against rampant corruption in the country.

“What the media company gave exceeded the amount mentioned in the guidelines. We have informed the media company not to violate the guidelines when giving gifts in the future,” said the statement. It also mentioned that the President’s Office “would not take action this time” and would instead treat the incident as “an educational moment.”

When asked to name the company, President’s Office spokesperson Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday afternoon that they had refrained from identifying the business, as they did not want to cause a “frenzy,” and that they have not yet received a response from the group in question.

“If you read the statement thoroughly, you will know,” he suggested.

Although they are not explicitly named, at the time of reporting, it appeared that the private TV operator SkyNet was the sole media company to stage a pavilion in Naypyidaw during the 2016 Thingyan celebrations.

Soon after the statement was posted on the President’s Office Facebook page, users also openly speculated that the unnamed company was, in fact, SkyNet.

“SkyNet, you should stop this lowly way of thinking that money can bring you everything,” one commenter wrote.

SkyNet is part of Shwe Than Lwin Media Co. Ltd. and is chaired by Kyaw Win, who is believed to have close business ties with the former government and the ex-military regime. The company was not available for immediate comment on Wednesday.

The President’s Office statement said that the five million kyats (US$4,250) given to the official will be donated to the Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Ministry to contribute to water projects being implemented in drought-hit areas this summer.