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Updated on June 19, 2020 From The Irrawaddy

Myanmar Opposition’s Bid to Impeach Yangon Chief Minister Fails

YANGON—A motion to impeach the ruling party’s Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein was rejected by a majority vote in the National League for Democracy-dominated regional parliament on Thursday after an investigation committee found that accusations submitted against him were not valid.

Thirty-two Yangon regional lawmakers from the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) along with military appointees and MPs from other parties sent an impeachment letter to the regional parliamentary speaker early this month. The letter included seven accusations against the chief minister, ranging from implementation of a controversial New City project without the parliament’s knowledge, to lending money from private banks to the city’s bus services, to violating the government’s ban on mass gatherings amid the COVID-19 outbreak by attending a Buddhist religious event in the last week of May.

The Yangon Region chief minister, his wife, members of his cabinet and other officials attended a Buddhist religious event at the riverside Botahtaung Pagoda in Yangon on May 24, when the government’s COVID-19 restrictions on mass gatherings were still in effect. The event prompted public criticism and earned the chief minister a warning from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) and an order to explain himself from the Union President’s Office.

According to Article 263 of the Myanmar Constitution, at least one-fourth of parliamentarians’ signatures are needed to impeach a chief minister. Yangon Region has a total of 122 lawmakers, including 31 military appointees, with the NLD holding a majority of seats. Once the impeachment letter is received, the speaker may launch an inquiry within a specific time frame and must allow the chief minister to defend himself.

The speaker can then call a vote based on the inquiry’s findings. The vote would then need the approval of at least two-thirds of the regional parliament before being sent to the President, who has the power to dismiss a chief minister from their position.

On Thursday, the Yangon parliament held an emergency session to hear the inquiry report on the impeachment.

In the report, the chief minister denied all accusations against him. Among his arguments, he said that by implementing the New City project he was simply carrying out a project that had already been approved by the parliament during the previous government. He also said the regional government was not responsible for a public company’s borrowing from private banks, and insisted he had not violated any COVID-19 restrictions, saying that under the Union Ministry of Health and Sports’ rules, government officials were allowed to gather in groups larger than five when performing their duties.

The inquiry, which in addition to the chief minister’s defense included parliamentary records and the results of other investigations, found that the accusations were not valid grounds for impeachment. In a secret ballot, the 117 lawmakers who attended Thursday’s session rejected the motion in a vote of 77 to 25.

Based on the voting results, regional parliament Speaker U Tin Maung Tun announced that the impeachment motion had failed.

After the vote, Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein posted a thank you note on his personal Facebook, saying, “Special thanks to all for your support!”

IMAGE: Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein attends a Chinese New Year celebration in Yangon in 2019. / Aung Kyaw Htet / The Irrawaddy
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