Burma’s corruption committee: Real change or another false dawn?By Zin Linn Jan 10, 2013 11:52PM UTC
The Office of the President of Burma (Myanmar) announced Wednesday the formation of a nine-member anti-corruption committee under the chairmanship of Vice President Dr. Sai Mauk Kham.
“As part of efforts for the emergence of good governance and clean government after the new government took office, an action committee against corruption is formed to fight the corruption and bribery in governmental organizations,” according to President Office’s Notification No. 9/2013 dated 8 January, 2013. It did not mention details on the responsibilities and rights of the nine-member committee.
Thein Sein has implemented political and economic reforms in the previously military-ruled country since he took office in 2011. Since then he has often called for an end to bribery and corruption.
In the last week of December, Thein Sein made a speech to the nation that the third phase of his reform agenda would focus on elimination of corruption, especially among government officials. Even though the President announced the member-list of the Action Committee against Corruption, there were no particulars of specific penalties for corrupt bureaucrats as well as respective executive personnel.
On 31 July 2012, the President’s Office warned the government officials at higher echelons to make details of their private-owned financial assets known to the president, according to the media reports.
The government members were urged to file the assets reports together with ministers, chief justice and judges, constitutional tribunal chairman and members, attorney-general, auditor-general, region or state chief ministers and ministers, and region or state chief justice and judges. The notification set 1 August as closing date for the submission of the report on private-owned financial assets of government’s officials.
The notification came after lawmaker Win Myint, a Lower House MP from the National League for Democracy party for Pathein constituency, put forward a proposal on 26 July 2012 to declare moveable and unmovable possessions and properties of persons assigned to union government members, region or state government members for emergence of good governance and clean government.
On 26 December, the President delivered a speech with unusual criticism on the bureaucracy, saying that widespread corruption, bribery and incompetence were hindering the country’s ongoing reform course. Moreover, the President said all topics discussed must be measured based on a people-centered improvement approach.
He made word of warning towards a crowd of ministers, provincial officials and high-ranking bureaucrats in the speech, broadcast live on nationwide television and radio, and said the third wave of his government reforms will target corruption.
In creation proposals, it is compulsory to accumulate facts and figures corresponding to the realistic grounds and processes are to be carried out with flawless management, the President said. He also warned that the country still fails to get closer to the international norms concerning good governance.
It was also good to see the Government’s statement, dated 30 November 2012 which said: “Public participation is essential in eliminating bribery and corruption in ensuring good governance and clean government. It is learnt that the culture of demanding of bribes in the form of cash or gifts as grease money still persists in government departments and private enterprises as well as in interaction between government staff and departments.”
The statement also highlights corruption as an unacceptable and unpardonable misconduct in building a democratic country and affects the dignity of the nation and its people. Hence, the government is rewriting a new bill to replace the existing ‘Suppression of Corruption Act 1948’ at the parliament to meet the demands of present time and international norms. The statement also encourages the citizens to complain frankly about bribery cases to respective departments.
‘The Lower House committee for the Rule of Law and Stability’ chaired by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has received more than 1,700 complaint letters seeking help, according to an article on the Elevennews website on 21 October 2012, as reproduced by the Mizzima News. Most of the complaints are related to land disputes, and legal and judicial issues, said committee Secretary MP Win Myint.
“The complaints come from across the country,” Win Myint told Elevennews. “We will deal with them by seeking cooperation from related ministries. He said the committee would try to improve the judicial system.
Some analysts consider that the cases of those complaint letters seem to be intertwined with bribery and corruption committed by the previous and current authorities who abused their administrative power.
On the other hand, Transparency International published its 2012 Index on December 5, 2012. By comparison, Burma (Myanmar) is ranked 172th out of 176 countries, just ahead of Somalia, North Korea, Afghanistan and Sudan.