The head of Voice of America’s (VOA) Burmese service has been suspended and is under investigation for allegedly sexually harassing a female staff member, according to sources close to VOA.
An investigation into U Than Lwin Tun, the chief of VOA’s Burmese service, was launched last week by the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), after a woman staffer submitted a sexual harassment complaint against him.
USAGM is a United States federal agency that oversees VOA and Radio Free Asia. Its budget comes from federal funds.
Myanmar national U Than Lwin Tun is no stranger to scandal. VOA’s Burmese service reporting since the coup has been criticized by Myanmar listeners and many pro-democracy groups for leaning towards the military regime.
Several established rights groups told The Irrawaddy that they no longer give interviews or comments to VOA Burmese, as they regard the coverage under U Than Lwin Tun’s leadership as favoring the junta that has so far killed over 2,500 anti-regime activists.
Some of VOA’s Burmese service editorial staff have anonymously expressed their displeasure with their chief’s stand on the military takeover and his editing of their reporting. Many members of the Myanmar community in Washington DC, where VOA’s Burmese service is based, have shunned him and Myanmar journalists believe that he is too close to apologists for the junta.
When The Irrawaddy asked VOA for a comment on U Than Lwin Tun being investigated for alleged sexual harassment, VOA’s Director of Public Relations, Bridget Serchak, said that “VOA does not comment on personnel matters.”
VOA staff said that U Than Lwin Tun hasn’t been seen at the Burmese service’s office since last week.
On Sunday, U Than Lwin Tun posted on his Facebook that filing a complaint and launching an investigation is not unusual in a work place.
“What happened is a grievance and labor relations issue between a superior and their subordinate. Then it was turned into a scandal about sexual harassment,” he wrote.
Before joining VOA in 2004, U Than Lwin Tun worked for the BBC’s Burmese Service, which he joined in 1991.
He has previously been criticized for his relationship with Daw Ma Ma, the publisher of Hot News Weekly, after Myanmar opened up in 2012. Daw Ma Ma is a daughter of Lieutenant-General Khin Maung Than, who was the chief of Yangon Region under the previous military regime.