President Takes Sagaing Officials to Task Over Duplicated Drug Figures

By Nan Lwin 20 August 2018

YANGON—Local authorities in Sagaing Region have drawn the ire of President U Win Myint by submitting fabricated monthly drug-seizure statistics, including identical information for two consecutive months.

At a meeting on Saturday with Sagaing Region administrative, legislative and judicial officials aimed at finding ways of speeding up regional government reforms, the president questioned whether the regional government was trying to cover up the reality of the situation. Comparing the two monthly government reports containing the drug information, he said, “It doesn’t make sense.”

He pointed out that the identities of the people tried for drug offenses, the number of seizures, the total number of kilograms of heroin seized and the total value of the drugs were the same in both reports. He brought the reports with him to show the error to the officials attending the meeting.

“You think I don’t read the reports? I read them carefully. I’m very disappointed,” U Win Myint said.

“Don’t hide anything from me,” the president said. “I don’t want lies.”

Over the years, it has become part of the bureaucratic culture in Myanmar to cover up unpleasant facts by submitting false data to placate visiting high-ranking officials and paint a rosy picture of reality.

U Win Myint asked the Sagaing chief minister whether he had checked the data before submitting it to the President’s Office. According to procedure, state government departments need to submit reports to the chief minister’s office within a certain deadline. After the chief minister checks and signs them, reports are submitted to the President’s Office.

The president said he understood that there are strengths and weaknesses, and good and bad, in every situation. He said he didn’t want to be fed only reports claiming that everything is fine on the ground.

Sagaing Regional Government Office Secretary U Khin Maung Swe told The Irrawaddy that the duplicated information was submitted due to “a typing error.”

“It involved the April and May reports. We have already amended it,” he said.

Since July, President U Win Myint has been meeting with regional administrative officials across the country to discuss their monthly reports to his office. Sagaing is the third region he has visited. In July, he met officials from Yangon and Bago regions and warned them not to drag out high-profile legal cases or verbally commit to any projects the Union government had yet to approve.

Sharing borders with Chin State and India, Sagaing is an important area affected by drug trafficking, land disputes, and illegal logging and gold mining. U Win Myint instructed regional administrative, legislative and judicial officials to work together to tackle the region’s problems, including corruption.

According to Myanmar’s Anti-Corruption Commission, 16 officials from across the country, including two from the regional branch of the General Administration Department, are currently fugitives.

Under the 2008 Constitution, the military controls three ministries — Defense, Border Affairs and Home Affairs. The Defense Ministry controls the Border Affairs Ministry, which has responsibility for issues relating to the ethnic states. Home Affairs oversees the country’s police forces and the General Administration Office, which manages all local administrative offices from the village to the township level.

“Before I came here, I read all the reports carefully. I want to emphasize that regional administrative, legislative, judicial and other departments must work together to speed up reform. Each of you is responsible for implementing reform. Don’t work solely for your own benefit, or for that of your department,” the president said.

“Some may be hesitant to change. Some may see it as a burden. Truthfully, you don’t need to worry about changes. Reform is not your enemy. Reform is your good friend,” he added.