Civil Servant Investigated for Criticism of Gov’t Training

By The Irrawaddy 21 December 2018

YANGON—A senior public health officer from Mandalay Region is being investigated by a top-level team for criticizing a government civil servant training on social media.

An official statement issued on Wednesday from the chair of the investigation team said the case has been opened on Dr. Soe Thuya Zaw, head of Mandalay Region’s Mogok Township’s public health department (dental), who attended a compulsory mid-level training session from Oct. 9 to Dec. 1, 2017. The statement said the investigation was opened for three reasons—for his criticism of the rules and regulations that trainees need to follow, for pointing out the faults of lecturers and claiming the training is a waste of government budget.

In October and November this year, the dentist U Soe Thuya Zaw shared a series of posts on his Facebook page about his experiences while attending public service training at the Central Institute of the Civil Service in a town called Zee Pin Gyi near Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Region. The Zee Pin Gyi civil service training was once known as an education for civil servants in the military mindset and basic military training.

The training targets civil servants from the level of junior clerk up to deputy director general and is offered as regular training, special refresher training, mid-level training and senior-level training. There are also mandatory training programs for cadres of civil servants newly entering the civil service or being promoted.

According to U Soe Thuya Zaw, the training included courses on financial management within government departments, political science, economics, English and information technology.

One of his posts said that during a class, the lecturer criticized the National League for Democracy (NLD) government’s efforts in the peace process and said that the NLD isn’t willing to achieve long-lasting peace. Later, the lecturer was slammed by classmates of the dentist who asked counter questions. They said most people know that first priority of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government is the peace process and it has been since they took office in 2016.

One of his posts said that while teaching the political science course, the lecturer also told the trainees not to marry or buy anything from non-Buddhist people and particularly referred to Muslim people, saying that they pose a risk to Myanmar’s monogamous Buddhists.

U Soe Thuya Zaw criticized the lecturer’s comments, saying that the topic is “too sensitive” and not suitable for discussion in the trainings as more than 600 trainees from different backgrounds and religions attended the courses.

He commented that the training topics pose a risk of brainwashing civil servants who will be the people implementing government policies in the future.

His latest status about the training pointed out that it is a waste of government budget and questioned whether it really is advantageous to each civil servant and whether it is worth taking up so much of their time.

The Irrawaddy contacted the chair of the investigation team but she refused to answer questions, saying that the case is currently under investigation and they will announce the results officially later.

The chair said U Soe Thuya Zaw now has a limited amount of time to send a letter or voice a complaint using evidence to show he is not guilty.

The investigation team includes the head of Mandalay’s public health department, the directors of the public health departments of Naypyitaw and Mogok.

A statement issued on Thursday by the Students’ Union of the University of Dental Medicine, Mandalay said the union condemns the investigation and allegations which totally go against the civil servant’s by-laws and freedom of speech. A previous version of this article mentioned that the student union demanded that U Soe Thuya Zaw not pressure the investigation team when in fact their demand was for the investigation team not to pressure U Soe Thuya Zaw.

In a press conference on Friday, government spokesperson U Zaw Htay said, “The action needs to follow civil servant act and rules and regulations.”

U Zaw Htay said that whether action will be taken on the case will be decided by the ministry of health and if there are complaints or incorrect decisions made by the investigation team, U Soe Thuya Zaw can send an official complaint letter to the President’s Office.