Myanmar’s junta has detained nearly four dozen high-ranking officials from the deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) on charges of corruption since seizing power seven months ago in a bid to tarnish the party’s image at a time of heightened political rivalry, legal analysts said Tuesday.
Among the 45 charged under Sections 55, 56 and 63 of the country’s anti-corruption law since the Feb. 1 coup are NLD leader and former state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, former mayor of the capital Naypyidaw Dr. Myo Aung, five former regional and state chief ministers, two former cabinet ministers, and a former speaker of a regional parliament, according to reporting by RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Those found guilty face up to 15 years in prison and fines.
Chu Chu and Nang Shwe Myint, the wives of Sagaing Region Chief Minister Dr. Myint Naing and Shan State Chief Minister Dr. Lin Htut, told RFA that the charges against their husbands and other NLD officials are laughable, as the party has always sought to root out corruption as one of its principal platforms.
“We have fought all along against corruption because we don’t accept it—the NLD has always worked to rid the country of corruption, which it despises,” Chu Chu said.
“Do you think [party members] would violate this law themselves? [The junta] just uses any charge it wants. Our conscience is clear. I can say without a doubt that we have never committed any acts of corruption.”
Nang Shwe Myint said it is “unbelievable” that nearly all the NLD’s state and regional chief ministers have been prosecuted for graft.
“[The junta] just does what it wants,” she said. “I strongly believe the [NLD leaders] have done nothing like the corruption they are accused of. I have nothing else to say about these bogus charges.”
Documents and data obtained by RFA list other NLD officials in detention for corruption as Naypyidaw Deputy Mayor Ye Min Oo, Mandalay Region Chief Minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, Magway Region Chief Minister Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, Bago Region Chief Minister Win Thein, Rakhine State Prime Minister Nyi Pu, Kayin State Chief Minister Nang Khin Htwe Myint, Kachin State Chief Minister Dr. Khet Aung, and Mon State Prime Minister Dr Aye Zan.
Two former NLD union ministers charged with corruption are Minister for Religion and Culture Thura Aung Ko and Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye. Of the two, Thura Aung Ko was arrested by the military, but Win Myat Aye is on the run. Magway Region Hluttaw Speaker U Tar and Yangon Region Social Affairs Minister Naing Lin and other regional and state cabinet ministers have also been charged under anti-corruption laws.
Bid to ‘damage reputations’
Myanmar’s military overthrew the democratically elected NLD government on Feb. 1, claiming the party had stolen the country’s November 2020 ballot through voter fraud. The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently repressed anti-coup protests, killing at least 1,040 people and arresting 6,069 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
The junta has said the NLD government “failed to follow proper procedures” and “abused power for personal gain,” squandering state finances. Coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told a meeting of junta officials in Naypyidaw on Aug. 23 that the Anti-Corruption Commission is “investigating illegal activities under the previous government.”
But legal analysts told RFA that the military’s bid to prosecute the NLD’s leaders on corruption charges is aimed at tarnishing the party’s image at a time of heightened political rivalry in the country.
“To open charges of corruption against those who hold office amid intense political competition is mainly to damage their reputations and also to suppress their opposition activities,” veteran lawyer Khin Maung Myint told RFA.
“We have seen this in many cases. Whether the charges are true or not will only be found out after the two sides appear in court and find a decision.”
Saw Than Htut, the brother of Karen State Prime Minister Nang Khin Htwe Myint, said the junta is seeking to justify long prison terms for NLD members, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent some 15 years under house arrest under the country’s former military junta until her release in 2010.
“The reason the military is suing all these leaders on corruption charges, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and chief ministers of various states and regions, is so that they can hold onto power,” he said.
“Of course, our leader is such a shrewd person. She is clean and our NLD leaders have worked to fight corruption all along.”
While RFA has been able to identify 45 NLD leaders who are facing prosecution under Myanmar’s anti-corruption law, sources say the number of actual arrests and imprisonments is likely to be much higher.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.