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The former chief minister of Magwe Division, Phone Maw Shwe, has pledged to ensure that some 7.5 billion kyat (US$5 million) which went missing will be returned to the regional government coffers.
The money, which was tax revenue from oil well drillers in the Magwe region and was earmarked for development projects, is alleged to have disappeared during the tenure of the former chief minister who is an MP for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
The allegations first arose on the DVB Debate programme aired on 1 April, when current minister for labour and immigration for Magwe Division, Nay Myo Kyaw, said he was launching an enquiry into the missing funds.
Phone Maw Shwe on 27 April responded by pledging to ensure the return of the money and associated assets. He said that 1.57bn kyat had been transferred to the Shwe Thukha Microcredit Firm. He said that 500m kyat would be returned to the government on 1 May while the remainder would be reimbursed by the end of July.
DVB has not yet been able to confirm whether the initial sum was transferred.
However, incumbent Magwe Chief Minister Aung Moe Myo on Sunday told DVB that several vehicles purchased with the funds had been handed over to the regional government.
Aung Moe Nyo said Phone Maw Shwe on Saturday had returned a construction backhoe, an Isuzu truck and three minibuses, as well as some speedboats which were passed to the Inland Water Transportation Department.
“They handed over the vehicles yesterday as promised – one backhoe, one Isuzu truck and three micro-buses,” Aung Moe Nyo told DVB. “They said the speedboats were now in the custody of the Inland Water Transportation Department.”
He praised Phone Maw Shwe for keeping his word.
Aung Myo Nyo had warned last week that Phone Maw Shwe could face legal repercussions over the missing revenue.
However, a spokesperson for the USDP retorted by accusing the government of conducting a politically motivated campaign.
On Friday, the opposition USDP threatened to take legal action against the Magwe government, asserting that the party had no involvement in the transactions, and that only two concerned individuals – Phone Maw Shwe and Kyi Tun – had dealt directly with the matter.
The party warned that attempts to attack the USDP’s credibility or take “political advantage” of the scandal would also be met with legal action.
“Making wild accusations against the USDP could harm our credibility and reputation. We will respond accordingly but within the law if it gets out of line,” party spokesperson Nandar Hla Myint told DVB.