USDP Won’t Punish Ex-Chief Minister Embroiled in Embezzlement Scandal

By Htun Htun 5 May 2017

RANGOON — The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will not take action against its former chief minister for Magwe Division, U Phone Maw Shwe, as the politician is now returning some of more than 3 billion kyats that went missing from government development funds.

U Phone Maw Shwe returned 500 million kyats to Magwe Division government on Friday after writing to the divisional government that he would return all the money by the end of July.

The Union government in early April ordered U Phone Maw Shwe to return 1.7 billion kyats, four cars, a digger, and two boats, all of which he donated to the Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP) during his time as chief minister.

The government also instructed him to return more than 1.57 billion kyats that he transferred to Shwe Thuka Microcredit Association. He returned the 500 million kyats through the association’s chairman, U Kyi Tun.

Lower House lawmaker U Tun Tun of Magwe’s Pwintbyu Township asked Parliament in May 2016 about the alleged embezzlement of regional development funds collected as taxation from small-scale oil producers in Magwe Division by the previous divisional government.

The Bureau of Special Investigations under the Ministry of Home Affairs launched an investigation and found that missing funds amounted to 7.5 billion kyats, and 1.7 billion kyats was spent on then-ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

USDP spokesperson Dr Nandar Hla Myint said the party would not discipline the ex-chief minister.

“He has now taken responsibility for things that happened while he was the chief minister,” U Nandar Hla Myint said. “The central executive committee (CEC) of the party has nothing to do with it. But if he was punished for a certain violation of the law, we would probably take action against him, according to party rules and regulations.”

U Phone Maw Shwe was also chairman of Magwe Division’s USDP chapter during his time as chief minister. He is currently a member of the central consultative committee.

“U Kyi Tun paid the money into Myanmar Economic Bank today. And the divisional government has received it. We will wait for the remaining money, as he said he would return the rest later on,” Magwe division government spokesperson U Nay Myo Kyaw told The Irrawaddy.

The ex-chief minister also returned the cars, digger and boats to the divisional government at the end of April.

Director-General of Burma’s State Counselor Office U Zaw Htay said that the government would not take punitive actions against U Phone Maw Shwe for the embezzlement, saying that its policy has ‘no retrospection.’

After the embezzlement was brought under the spotlight, USDP chairman U Than Htay said that his party was politically targeted.

U Nay Myo Kyaw denied this, however, adding, “We were looking for justice. We did not target an individual or a party out of hatred. We just wanted to get back the public funds for the people.”