Rakhine NLD MP Accused of Bribery in Land Dispute

By Moe Myint 21 August 2017

YANGON – National League for Democracy regional lawmaker U Win Naing of Rakhine State’s Thandwe Constituency has been accused of asking for a bribe from three locals in exchange for abandoning a challenge of land ownership for 15 acres near the well-known Ngapali Beach.

On Monday morning, a complaint letter went viral on Facebook stating that parliamentarian U Win Naing had charged 13 million kyats to three villagers earlier this year as an agreement for withdrawing his objection to a land deal involving a hill near Mya Pyin village.

Complainant U Tin Naing Win from Thandwe Township told The Irrawaddy over the phone that he bought five acres of land in 2005 from U Maung Phyu of Linthar village, located near Nga Pyaw Chaung reservoir. U Win Tin and U Win Thein bought 10 acres of land from Daw Khin Pyone Ye in 2004.

More than a decade later, in 2016, shortly after winning a seat in the state parliament, U Win Naing challenged the issuing of an official land ownership document to the three buyers. He proceeded to file an objection letter to the township land records department stating that 13 acres of his late grandfather’s lands were included in the area purchased by the three buyers.

“At first, he asked for 10 million kyats. Later, he negotiated to be paid 6.5 million kyats and we already transferred the money to him last month,” said U Tin Naing Win.

Another complainant, U Win Tin of Mya Pyin village, explained that the government confiscated paddy lands in order to build Nga Pyaw Chaung reservoir during the previous military-run administration, more than four decades ago. At this time, he said MP U Win Naing’s grandfather’s land was also seized. The land that remained was cultivated by villagers for several generations.

“These [currently disputed] lands do not belong to U Win Naing. The ownership has been changed for almost three generations. It’s just the use of power to abuse ordinary villagers,” U Win Tin said.

The complainants publicly released two contracts on Facebook and the post went viral. According to the documents, U Tin Naing Soe and MP U Win Naing signed off on an agreement witnessed by Mya Pyin quarter administrative officials in which land buyer U Tin Naing Soe initially paid 6.5 million kyats at the end of July in order rid himself of U Win Naing’s claim to the land.

“We did not willingly pay him. We just gave it to him to end the disruptions,” U Win Tin said.

MP U Win Naing acknowledged to The Irrawaddy on Monday that he received 6.5 million kyats from U Tin Naing Soe, but claimed that it was not a bribe.

He recalled that his grandfather owned land that was confiscated around 1970 for the reservoir, but that some had remained usable. In late 2010, private company Kaung Myanmar Aung applied to the land records department to purchase land in the area, classifying it as “vacant.” Some villagers who were recognized as customary landowners received 2 million kyats per acre as compensation from the company.

U Win Naing maintains that 13 acres of this land had been originally owned by his late grandfather.

“I did not ask for 13 million kyats. That amount is what was offered me via village administrative officials. Yet I have received just 6.5 million kyats and they have to pay me the next 6.5 million for 8 acres of land, in line with the agreement,” said the parliamentarian, referring to a second installment from the other two buyers, U Win Tin and U Win Thein.

He pointed out that if Kaung Myanmar Aung compensated the villagers with 2 million kyats per acre, he should be paid around 26 million kyats for his grandfather’s 13 acres.

The Irrawaddy could not independently verify whether the land in question belonged to the lawmaker’s family or to the farmers from Mya Pyin and Linthar villages.

U Win Tin and U Tin Naing Soe told The Irrawaddy that they would deliver their complaint letter accusing U Win Naing of bribery to the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led State Counselor’s Office, the anti-corruption commission and NLD party spokesperson U Win Htein.

The Rakhine State government office’s secretary U Tin Maung Swe said that his office had not received the letter and that similar land disputes or corruption cases are typically handled at the Union level.

NLD central executive committee member and leader of the party’s complaint committee Dr. Myo Nyunt told The Irrawaddy over the phone that his committee had received around 400 complaint letters in total since assuming office in April 2016; nearly 200 cases are linked to NLD lawmakers and four chief ministers.

He refused to provide the state and division breakdown for these incidents, stating that they are dealt with in accordance with the party’s principles. The committee launched its own investigations and has since found 20 individuals guilty of misconduct.

Dr. Myo Nyunt said that the case of Arakanese regional lawmaker has not yet been examined. He claimed that his committee would immediately take the case to court if the MP is found by the NLD investigation to be corrupt, and will be banned from the party. Such bribery cases are notably rare, only one documented incident in the past year.

Last week, the Anti-Corruption Commission claimed that the NLD-appointed Union Ministers were free from corruption.