The Irrawaddy News Magazine [Covering Burma and Southeast Asia]

Govt Ministry Files Lawsuit Over Graft Claims
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Burmese Ministry of Mining has followed through on its threat and filed a lawsuit against The Voice Weekly journal after allegations of corruption were reported last week.

The director of the Ministry of Mining lodged a defamation lawsuit against the Rangoon-based publication at Dagon Township Court in the city late last week, claims a court official would asked to remain anonymous.

“The director and his adviser told the court that what was written in the journal defamed them,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The publisher of The Voice Weekly, the journalist who wrote the article and the responsible editor have been summoned to appear at a hearing on March 22 to respond to the allegations.

Modern Journey journal is facing a similar lawsuit after an engineer from the Ministry of Construction launched a civil action after an article was printed concerning the poor condition of roads in Mandalay. Representatives from the publication will appear in Mandalay District Court on March 23.

Journalists in Burma have been outspoken in their criticism of these cases and say they will stand together united to fight for justice against these unwarranted restrictions on the media.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters on Wednesday that the Burmese government is still restricting media freedom, and cited the case of The Voice Weekly as an example.

By restricting media freedom, the government is preventing the country from developing, she said, adding the Ministry of Mining's lawsuit is one of the ways that the government attempts to gag the media.

The Nobel laureate made the statement at a press conference at her lakeside home in Rangoon following a meeting with US Special Envoy to Burma Derek Mitchell.

The Voice Weekly and other Burmese media outlets reported accusations of corruption within six key ministries with regards the misuse of billions of kyat of government funds and engaging in a variety of illegal transactions.

The articles were based on a government audit report which is the subject of ongoing discussions between members of Burma's Lower House of Parliament.

The Voice Weekly reported that the Ministry of Mining-1 sold 50 percent of a copper mining project to Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH) for US $100 million. But allegedly Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. Of Hong Kong paid the Ministry of Mining instead of UMEH.

The six ministries mentioned in the audit report were the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Cooperatives, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Ministry of Mining, and Ministries of Industry (1) and (2).

The Ministry of Mining is the only one to have responded to these allegations at the present time.

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