Myanmar democracy group slams military fund

AP News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2011 11:56 AM
Myanmar democracy group slams military fund

Myanmar's pro-democracy group on Friday criticized a new law that allows Myanmar's military chief access to a special fund without any oversight from parliament.

The fund _ created at the same time as the new budget of which almost one-fourth was allocated to the military _ can be used by the commander in chief to pay for expenses related to national defense and security. He needs only the president's approval to do so, according to a statement from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

Myanmar President-elect Thein Sein is a former general who served as the outgoing ruling junta's prime minister. He now heads the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won a huge majority in last November's election that much of the international community dismissed as rigged in favor of the junta. A mandatory allocation of one-quarter of the seats in parliament to military appointees assures that the ruling generals remain in charge.

The Special Funds law allows the money to be used "to safeguard national sovereignty and protect disintegration of the union" and says the military commander "shall not be subject to questioning, explanation or auditing by any individual or organization" regarding its use.

So-called secret funds are used in several countries to conceal details of sensitive military and intelligence activities. However, they can also serve as slush funds, leading to corruption because users are not held accountable for them.

"Since the law allows the commander in chief to use the funds without having the need to answer to anyone or any organization, the law is not in line with norms of the law," said the NLD statement.

Suu Kyi's organization also criticized the government's recently released budget for allocating too much money to the military and not enough to social services.

Its statement also said the fiscal year 2011-2012 budget should have been passed by the newly seated parliament, rather than enacted by the junta.

The government enacted the budget on Jan. 27, just a few days before parliament met for the first time in more than two decades. Details published in the official Government Gazette revealed that almost one-quarter of the 7.6 trillion kyat ($8.45 billion) national budget will be allocated to defense. Education will get a 4.3 percent share, and health 1.3 percent.

Myanmar is one of Asia's poorest countries, reflected in its health indicators. It has the 44th highest infant mortality rate of 193 countries listed by the UNICEF in its 2011 State of the World's Children report.