Suspicions Raised in Mon State Development Contract

By Lawi Weng 10 May 2019

Speaking at the Mon State parliament on Thursday, Min Htin Aung Han, former Mon State minister of electricity, energy and industry, said it was the regional chief minister’s own decision, and not that of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to give a 1-billion-kyat ($656,000) road-building contract from the state budget to a private company.

In parliamentary discussions on May 3, the chief minister had implied that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had told him to proceed with the contract.

“It wasn’t true [that the] decision came from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” Min Htin Aung Han said, adding that Mon State Chief Minister U Aye Zan needed to take responsibility for his own decision.

“Our leader (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) would never give this type of instruction. She only gives good instruction how to work that are appropriate to the law,” he said.

The road in question would run for 7 kilometers (4.3 mileS), from Aung Tha Pya to Nekayin in Mon State’s Ye Township. The contract is a six-month, local development project listed in the 2018-2019 Mon State fiscal year budget. The chief minister offered the project to the Southern Myanmar Development Co. Ltd (SMD) to build the road, at a cost of 1 billion kyats.

Min Htin Aung Han, who resigned from government in May of 2018, recalled U Aye Zan making inappropriate decisions at a cabinet meeting regarding the project.

“He made the decision from our cabinet meeting for this project when [it was on the] agenda…which [cost] 1 billion kyats, [to] not call for tenders and give it directly to a company. I feel this action wasn’t suitable to the law,” Min Htin Aung Han told the Mon News Agency on Thursday.

Min Htin Aung Han said that giving the project directly to a company does not comply with standard legal procedure, and that, when he brought this up to the chief minister, the chief minister was not happy about it. When lawmakers began criticizing the decision, Min Htin Aung Han said he asked the chief minister how they would explain their case to parliament, and the chief minister said he would take care of it.

According to government procedure, if a project’s cost exceeds 10 million kyats, the state is required to offer the contract up for open bidding. While the process begins with the president and the Union government, final decision-making authority on filling the contract lies with the state or regional government.

Aung Naing Oo, the state parliament’s deputy speaker, asked in parliament on May 3 why the government did not seek competing bids for the project, and if the chief minister’s actions accurately followed established protocol.

U Aye Zan told the parliament that, because the budget was small, they did not need to seek bids, and that he had Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s permission to move ahead. When Aung Naing Oo said that if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had ordered him to move forward, there had to be a record of the order, U Aye Zan replied that it had been a verbal order.

The chief minister was widely criticized on Facebook after the May 3 dialogue in the state parliament. Critics called for the NLD government to investigate the chief minister and, if legal violations are found, to take appropriate action.

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