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Radio Free Asia

Chief Minister Survives Impeachment Vote in Myanmar's Yangon

2020-06-18 -- An attempt to impeach Yangon's chief minister by opponents of Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy failed on Thursday, with lawmakers in the regional parliament rejecting the measure in a mostly party-line vote, the legislators said.

The 77-25 vote came only days after minister Phyo Min Thein, who was seen as a possible successor to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, told RFA that he would not contest November general elections because of a health condition, leaving his future unclear.

Opposition lawmakers in the regional parliament for Yangon, Myanmar's largest city and commercial capital, had sought to remove the presidential appointee for seven offenses first raised by some 30 regional lawmakers in a letter to the parliamentary speaker early this month, sparking an investigation.

The complaints against Phyo Min Thein included that he attended a Buddhist religious event in Yangon with other officials last month in violation of restrictions on public gatherings to fight the coronavirus pandemic, and alleged questionable spending on public works.

Phyo Min Thein denied the accusations, and the investigation committee concluded that the accusations were invalid.

The failed motion to dismiss Phyo Min Thein was submitted by legislator Tin Win from the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and military lawmakers.

"What I have done did was just try to seek accountability by the legislative branch for what the administrative branch has done – according to democratic principles," he said.

"Frankly speaking, we expected fairness – everyone wanted the outcome based on the truth."

NLD spokesman Monywa Aung Shin said the attempt to impeach Phyo Min Thein was meant to sully his image.

"What I see is that the motion was meant to taint the political image of the chief minister," he said.

'Breaking the law'

Nyo Nyo Thin, a former Yangon regional legislator and founder of Yangon Watch, said that NLD regional lawmakers often have criticized Phyo Min Thein's administration.

"In this impeachment case, NLD MPs might have regretted their votes against the USDP and military MPs, because they [NLD MPs] were publicly very vocal critics of the incompetency and unaccountability of the chief minister and the Yangon regional government in the media over the course of the past four years," she said.

"In reality, the [NLD MPs] were not able to decide according to their own consciences. …When a political party singlehandedly controls both the legislature and the administration, the legislative body is no longer able to check and balance the administrative body," she added.

NLD regional lawmaker Kyaw Zay Ya, however, said parliamentary review of the complaints raised in the letter excluded probes into questionable transactions raised in past auditing reports.

He pointed to decisions by Phyo Min Thein's administration such as investing 10 billion kyats (U.S. $7 million) during fiscal year 2016-17 in the Yangon New City project on the western bank of the Yangon River without parliament's prior approval, and a 30-billion-kyat cash purchase of a generator.

"These were [instances of] breaking the law," Kyaw Zay Ya said.

Phyo Min Thein had been nominated by the NLD to run again in November for his current Yangon regional parliamentary seat. He won the seat in the NLD's landslide victory in the 2015 general elections, and serves as a local MP concurrently with his job as chief minister of Yangon.

In remarks to RFA's Myanmar Service on Monday, Phyo Min Thein, 51, who underwent heart surgery four years ago, did not elaborate on his health condition or his future political plans.

"I will keep contributing to the party's works and nation-building efforts," he told RFA.

Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Maung Maung Nyo. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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