YANGON – After the Arakan National Party (ANP)’s central executive committee dismissed township-level secretary Aung Than Wai last week, several hundred Sittwe residents, unhappy with the decision, protested against the party steering committee on Tuesday afternoon.
During a two-day meeting the previous week, 21 CEC members discussed the situation in Rakhine State, future development of the state, and the punishment of party officials accused of misconduct.
Khine Pyay Soe, chair of the party’s disciplinary committee, told The Irrawaddy over the phone on Monday that CEC members voted to dismiss Aung Than Wai.
Twelve members voted for dismissal, seven members elected for Aung Than Wai to be removed from the position but to remain a party member, and some attendees such as Dr. Aye Maung, abstained from voting, he said.
ANP insiders told The Irrawaddy that after coordinated attacks against three border police outposts in Maungdaw district by Muslim militants on Oct. 9 and ensuing government security operations—resulting in thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs)—the ANP in Sittwe led by Aung Than Wai organized a fundraising campaign for Arakanese IDPs which received at least 10 million kyats.
Aung Than Wai allegedly embezzled eight million kyats instead of contributing the money to IDPs. The party steering committee received complaint letters from the ground. The party’s top leaders established an investigation committee in order to examine the misconduct of ANP’s secretary in Sittwe.
Khine Pyay Soe confirmed the dispute and explained the party faced internal division over Aung Than Wai’s alleged corruption.
“He took eight million for his personal matter instead of donating to IDPs. But malpractice member Aung Than Wai refused to accept the investigation,” he said.
Khine Pyay Soe recalled that Aung Than Wia also misused party funds from ANP lawmakers without informing a 25-member township level committee.
Aung Than Wai also discretely removed township level committee members who were elected at the party conference.
The Irrawaddy phoned another meeting attendee, ANP Union parliament lawmaker U Ba Shein, who said the steering committee expelled the township-level secretary for breaching the party’s rules and regulations and declining to consider internal friction as well financial abuses within party.
“Lower level party members must obey the decisions of the central committee whether they like it or not”, he said.
Sittwe resident Aung Ko Moe who requested peaceful assembly permission from authorities and was granted to march on Tuesday afternoon, accused secretary Tun Aung Kyaw and disciplinary committee chair Khine Pyay Soe of trying to separate the party and called for their dismissal in a Facebook post.
The post featured protest slogans such as: “We don’t accept the separatist agenda against the ANP” and “The disintegrators of the ANP is our enemy.”
Organizer Aung Ko Moe uploaded an apology letter from Sittwe ANP’s chairman Aye Thein for insulting Aung Than Wai in early 2017 regarding financial abuses. The document mentioned the party’s financial report but did not mention the IDP fund.
According to the document, Aye Thein testified that his party had already received the township-level financial report when he erroneously insulted Aung Than Wai in 2016.
Aung Than Wai filed the case against Aye Thein under Myanmar’s notorious telecommunication law Article 66(d).
The case avoided going to court after Aye Thein sent the apology letter, resigned from the CEC and ANP Sittwe and Aung Than Wai withdrew case, according to an ANP committee member who asked for anonymity.
Aung Than Wai and secretary Tun Aung Kyaw could not be reached by The Irrawaddy.