Fri, Jan 25, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Myanmar launches high-level graft probe

UNPRECEDENTED:The Burmese government is making good on its vow to rid the nation of corruption with its first public investigation of telecommunications officials

AFP, YANGON, Myanmar

Myanmar has launched a probe into alleged high-level corruption in its Ministry of Telecommunications, Burmese officials said yesterday, following a vow to tackle graft in the former junta-ruled country.

The government’s Bureau of Special Investigation (BSI) has questioned more than a dozen ministry officials and may also grill former Burmese minister of telecommunications Thein Tun, who abruptly resigned last week, they said.

“About 20 officials at the telecommunications ministry have been questioned by the BSI in Naypyidaw. If a case is built with enough evidence after the inquiry, then they might summon the former minister,” a government official who did not want to be named told reporters.

He added that Thein Tun was being closely watched by the authorities.

“He has been told to report to the authorities concerned if he wants to travel outside Naypyidaw,” the official said.

Ye Htut, a spokesman for Burmese President Thein Sein, confirmed the probe, but declined to elaborate.

Thein Tun would be the first government minister known to have been investigated for corruption.

Thein Sein has pledged to clean up the country as part of reforms that promise greater democracy and measures to establish the rule of law after decades of corrupt military rule ended in 2011.

In a rare public move to tackle graft, Burmese authorities in November last year ordered state loans totaling tens of millions of US dollars to be clawed back from private businesses.

The move came after the auditor general found dozens of cases of “misuse and dishonest actions” involving 15 ministries that resulted in nearly US$65 million in loans leaving government coffers.

A new anti-graft law will enable authorities to “investigate and rigorously prosecute those involved in corruption in both the public and private sectors,” an official document distributed at a recent donor forum showed.

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