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Military Corruption is Being Handled Internally: Military Spokesperson

By San Yamin Aung 28 May 2019

YANGON— Myanmar’s military said it has taken action against corrupt military officials through its own internal mechanisms, fending off complaints about their immunity to prosecution from the government’s anti-graft body. Information on the cases which have been dealt with, however, has not been disclosed.

“We, the military, don’t neglect corruption cases and we take action against the [perpetrators],” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told reporters during a press conference in Naypyitaw on Monday after being asked how the military handles cases of bribery within the institution.

He said cases against generals and other high-ranking officials are among the corruption prosecutions it has carried out.

“But we don’t release information about those prosecutions. And don’t ask me [about that]. I won’t answer. The fact is that we have taken action.”

To combat deep-rooted corruption inside the country, the first Anti-Corruption Commission was formed in 2014 under the country’s Anti-Corruption Law. However, the commission failed to make significant ground to stem the tide of corruption.

The incumbent National League for Democracy (NLD) government revamped the Anti-Corruption Commission in November 2017. Since then, it has stepped up its efforts, amending the Anti-Corruption Law to expand its authority and undertaking more investigations at higher levels than the previous commission.

The commission has been able to catch some big fish over the last year-and-a-half, prosecuting high-ranking officials who occupy senior positions such as chief minister, regional attorney general, deputy district judge and regional law officer.

Yet, when it comes to the military, corruption remains powerless despite the Anti-Corruption Law stating that “anyone found guilty of corruption” is subject to punishment.

Anti-graft czar U Aung Kyi said in late 2018 that corruption cases related to the military are beyond the mandate of the commission because the Constitution grants the military the right to tackle corruption internally. He was referring to Article 293 (b) of the Constitution, which refers to the formation of a court-martial, and Article 319, under which “the court-martial shall be constituted in accordance with the Constitution and the other laws, and shall adjudicate Defense Services personnel.”

According to the commission, it transferred eight complaints to the ministry of defense during 2018, but whether action has been taken on those cases or not remains unknown. When contacted by The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, a member of the commission refused to comment on the cases related to the military and their follow-up actions, citing the sensitivity of cases in connection with the military.

In a very rare incident reported by The Irrawaddy in May 2018, two high-ranking military officers were transferred to the military’s auxiliary force for taking bribes from owners of jade mines operating without licenses in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township after a local lawmaker complained to the ministry of resources and environmental conservation.

The two officers, Maj-Gen Nyi Nyi Swe, head of the Southwestern Command and former head of the Northern Command; and Brig-Gen Maung Maung Zan, commander of Division 101, based in Hpakant, were investigated for taking bribes and suspended.

“Despite the Anti-Corruption Commission not [being allowed to] handle these cases, our punishments are harsher than the commission’s. We do not just give warnings or dismissals,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said.

He said that the military is investigating and taking action on complaints of corruption received by the commander-in-chief, state and regional military bases, Parliament, the President’s Office and those transferred from the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Daw Moe Moe Tun, leading member of MATA (Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability), said transparency is the most important thing in tackling corruption and in gaining public confidence.

“It is not enough saying that they took action. If they really did, they need to announce publicly when and how they took action [on the corruption complaints]. The public will only have trust in that case,” she said.

“Indeed, everyone should be under the same law,” she said.

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