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Myanmar Ruling Party Defends Kayah Chief Minister After Impeachment, Ouster

2020-09-03 -- Myanmar President Win Myint on Thursday removed the chief minister of Kayah state, two days after state lawmakers voted to impeach him over the alleged misuse of public funds from renting out state machinery and land designated by the legislature as public space.

L Phaung Sho, a politician from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, who had held the position of chief minister since March 30, 2016, was accused of embezzling nearly 400 million kyats (U.S. $293,100) in state funds from the rental of publicly owned machinery and park facilities to private companies.

Despite his ouster, L Phaung Sho remains an MP in the Kayah state parliament and will compete for reelection in nationwide elections on Nov. 8 as a candidate for the NLD, which defended him on Thursday and condemned the impeachment as driven by a "personal grudge."

He is the first head of a state or regional government to be ousted by a parliamentary vote under constitutional procedures, with 16 of 20 Kayah lawmakers supporting the measure.

The lawmakers voted Tuesday after receiving a report by a five-person investigative committee that examined the allegations. Prior to the vote, L Phaung Sho suggested that the committee chairman and two others had abused their power in filing the motion against him.

L Phaung Sho defended himself on Thursday, saying that the decision to impeach him was not impartial and that he did not do anything wrong.

"I was stabbed in the back as the members of parliament misused their power," he told RFA's Myanmar Service.

The politician went on to say that the accusations had already been cleared by parliament two years ago, because the body had approved annual state budget audits and submitted them to the president.

"I performed my duty very well," he said.

L Phaung Sho went on to say that during the motion to impeach him "prosecutors performed as judges and made the decision that they wanted."

"There was no justice in the process," he said. "I already had reported all facts to the constitutional court through the president."

A personal attack

The NLD issued a statement on Thursday Party saying that L Phaung Sho's removal was a personal attack by the speaker of the state parliament and other NLD lawmakers, who have not been nominated for reelection in November.

"Given the fact that the state parliament chairman is not included in the list of candidates selected for contesting in upcoming election, the party's central committee concluded that the chairman has acted on a personal grudge rather than complying with the laws and procedures, utilizing other party members who have not been selected for election and trying to tarnish the reputation of the party ahead of the elections," the statement said.

Of the 20 lawmakers who comprise the Kayah state parliament, 10 are members of the NLD, five are military appointees, four are from the army-backed opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and one is from the Kayah State Democratic Party.

L Phaung Sho is the second chief minister to be sacked for alleged corruption under the NLD government, following the 2019 dismissal of Lei Lei Maw, another NLD politician who was chief minister of Tanintharyi region. She was jailed on corruption charges in May.

A month later, Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein, also an NLD member, survived an impeachment vote in the Yangon regional parliament. He was accused of seven offenses, including attending a Buddhist religious event in violation of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings and questionable spending on public works.

Despite L Paung Sho's removal from his post, he remains a lawmaker in the eastern state's parliament and will run for reelection in the Nov. 8 general elections for his seat representing Kayah's Mese township constituency.

Bosco, Kayah state's minister of agriculture, livestock and irrigation has been appointed acting chief minister.

Reported by Soe Soe Htet, Khaymani Win, and Soe San Aung for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Laung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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