NLD demands war on graft

Rural poverty has been made more acute by the military’s theft of land. Source: Asean Economist

National League for Democracy members of Myanmar’s Lower House have called on the authorities to work harder to implement a three-year-old anti-corruption law, fearing that its ineffective implementation will harm peace and development.

“I believe we will never have the rule of law, peace, and development in the country if we can’t control corruption,” MP Than Win of the ruling party told the parliament.

Corruption was a “serious disease” in government, harming international trade and investment, he said.

Key to the issue is amount of land that has been taken from farmers by the authorities and, more specifically, the military.

The previous military-dominated parliament set up two bodies to investigate and mediate land-grab cases, but little progress was made. The 2011-16 government reviewed 17,000 cases, but only resolved an estimated 1,000.

The new NLD government has formed a taskforce to deal with land-grab cases. During June, 6,434 acres that was snatched in the Ayeyarwady delta was returned to 324 villagers, the state-owned Myanma Alinn Daily claimed.

The bulk of land was taken in the 1990s and early 2000s, while the transition from the junta’s so-called socialist system to a market-driven economy was taking place, often with the justification of improving energy provision. Officially, the government owned all land and farmers were granted the right to cultivate it.

Than Win said the country was ranked 147 out of 168 countries on Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Cambodia was ranked at150.

Fellow NLD MP Myo Zaw Oo said the 2013 anti-corruption law must be more effectively enforced.

The Anti-Corruption Commission, established in 2014 under the law, had received many complaints of corruption but had acted on only a few, often blaming weak evidence to support claims, NLD MPs claimed.

Than Win called on the commission to thoroughly investigate the thousands of reports it had received.

The 15-member commission includes former military officers and other figures appointed by the previous military-backed administration, leading to allegations that claims against senior figures are dismissed.

Last month, parliament approved an amendment to the Anti-Corruption Law, requiring that the president and speakers of both houses to select a maximum of five members to the commission in a bid to strengthen the body, the Daily Eleven newspaper reported.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has pledged to tackle the official corruption.