Myanmar probes graft in telecom

January 25, 2013 - 5:07:54 am

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (centre) arrives at Yangon International Airport to leave for Hawaii and South Korea, yesterday. The Nobel Peace Laureate is to receive a human rights award during her trip.

YANGON: Myanmar’s former telecommunications minister and dozens of officials are under investigation for graft, a senior government official said yesterday, in a landmark probe in the fast reforming country long ranked among the world’s most corrupt.

The investigation by the Home Ministry and auditor general covers about 50 individuals and civil servants connected to the telecommunications ministry and comes a month after reformist President Thein Sein vowed to clean up a bureaucracy mired in corruption and inefficiency.

A senior government official, who asked not to be identified, said that current and former ministry staff were being questioned “in connection with malpractice in the nationwide telecommunications network”.

One of those under investigation was former telecommunications minister, Thein Tun, who stepped down this month for unexplained reasons. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut confirmed that an investigation was underway, but would not comment further.

Investigations into corruption are almost unheard of in Myanmar, which ended 49 years of military rule in March 2011.

Since then, a reformist government has freed hundreds of political prisoners, eased censorship controls and held free elections. Its rewards include a suspension in Western sanctions but its reputation for graft has lingered.

Thein Sein, a former general, announced this month the creation of an anti-corruption committee. The probe comes as Myanmar begins to liberalise one of the world’s most underdeveloped telecoms sectors to attract foreign firms in the greenfield market of 60 million people. The government source said the Home Ministry was questioning eight people, including the general manager and deputy chief 

engineer. REUTERS