Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Military junta accuses ex-leader of corruption


Myanmar's ruling junta has accused ex-Prime Minister Khin Nyunt of corruption, and said he was ousted to prevent the disintegration of the country's military, newspapers said yesterday.

The once-powerful Khin Nyunt, who also headed Myanmar's intelligence services, was sacked Oct. 19 and remains under house arrest.

Initially, the junta said he had been "permitted to retire for health reasons."

But General Thura Shwe Mahn, the ruling council's third-ranked member, said that Khin Nyunt was involved in a major corruption scandal, and that he also threatened armed forces' unity by launching a probe of regional commanders. Thura Shwe Mahn said Khin Nyunt's actions "could have led to the disintegration of the Tatmadaw [military] and posed extreme danger for the country."

The general made the accusations in an Oct. 24 speech to Yangon's business community. It was printed yesterday in full in three official newspapers, along with similar speeches by other top-ranked leaders.

Khin Nyunt's position was taken over by hardliner Lieutenant General Soe Win, 56, a former air defense chief who climbed to the junta's top ranks during the past two years.

Western analysts have generally viewed the ouster as the eruption of a long-simmering feud among the top leadership -- and a shift to even more hardline policies in Myanmar, which has been widely accused of human rights abuses and stifling democracy.

Khin Nyunt, who never enjoyed good relations with the junta's No. 1 Senior General Than Shwe, had a reputation as relative moderate, favoring a negotiated accord with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi that would let the military retain political control, rather than simply jailing or exiling her.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who heads the battered National League for Democracy party, has been in detention since May last year when the military cracked down on her party after a violent clash between her followers and government supporters.

In his speech, Thura Shwe Mahn said Khin Nyunt was on a goodwill visit to Singapore in mid-September when 186 people, including military intelligence officials, were arrested at the Myanmar-China border checkpoint at Muse. More than 3 billion kyat (US$480 million) and 42 tonnes of jade were seized, he said.

The general said Khin Nyunt was "was extremely disappointed and annoyed over the Muse incident from which one can assume that Khin Nyunt was involved in the corruption scandal."

When Khin Nyunt was later told he had be replaced as military intelligence chief and that the National Intelligence Bureau, which he chaired, would be abolished, he instructed senior military intelligence officers to compile dossiers on regional commanders and "planned to reveal them at a Cabinet meeting," the general said.

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