Leaders of a century-old organisation central to the country’s independence struggle are mired in conflict, leading to the expulsion of central executive committee members and the launching of an inquiry into alleged corruption.

A tribunal has been set up to look into the allegations of misconduct at the prestigious Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA), founded in 1906, which played a historic role in resisting British colonialism.

“The [general administration department] of east Yangon district summoned us following their receipt of certain information, and we had a discussion,” said U Thaung Win, the association’s general secretary.

The five-member tribunal is led by the deputy head of the department for east Yangon district, and other district-level officials from the police force and immigration department.

The inquiry was launched in response to complaints made by a former vice president of the association, U Thein Lwin, and three ex-members of the central executive committee, U Myat Soe (Hlaing), U Aye Myint and U Soe Shein.

The allegations concern such matters as the registration of two SIM cards valued at K500,000, the purchase of a used car for K30 million, tampering with the results of exams administered by the association and the use of association funds for the travel of family members.

“We explained all the issues to the tribunal, which will now issue its findings in a report,” said U Thaung Win.

The allegations reflect serious arguments among CEC members that resulted in the expulsion of U Thein Lwin and three of the 23 committee members, who say their expulsion violated the association’s principles.

“Our work for the association was unpaid. We were just trying to clear up the corrupt conduct and mess from a body that was established in 1906 by progressive university students to fight the colonial government,” said U Myat Soe (Hlaing).

General secretary U Thaung Win responded, “They [the complainants] were just blaming us without doing any work. The CEC decided to expel them because they were harming the association’s prestige.”

The conflict has caused the postponement of the association’s annual conference. “We were to have held the conference in June but we had to postpone it at the request of the authorities,” said U Thaung Win.

U Myat Soe (Hlaing) said all association activities have stopped. “The association doesn’t have any work to do now because the authorities have halted all their activities,” he said. “No meetings have been held since June 22, and the ban remains in force pending further instructions.”

Since independence, the Young Men’s Buddhist Association has performed purely religious functions.

Association patron U Khin Maung Lay (Pho Thauk Kyar), who is also vice chair of the Interim Press Council, said he hoped its prestige could be sustained. “Many agree that the YMBA pioneered political activity in Myanmar,” he said. “I want to see it remain an organisation of high prestige and influence.”

Link: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/11308-leading-buddhist-group-under-corruption-cloud.html