YANGON — The national anti-corruption body has opened an investigation into a Yangon court’s decision to drop charges against three men accused of killing Facebook celebrity turned movie star Aung Ye Htwe in a fatal altercation last New Year’s Eve.
On July 26, Yangon’s Eastern District Court accepted an application from the victim’s family to drop the charges and the three suspects were freed.
But following public outcry and subsequent intervention by President U Win Myint, a government spokesperson said on July 30 that the Union Attorney General’s Office would submit an application to continue the pre-trial hearing and examine eight remaining witnesses.
Today, the Anti-Corruption Commission announced on its Facebook page that it would investigate the case. “Speculation that there might be corruption concerning this case is spreading on social media,” it said in a statement.
“Since there are reasons to be suspicious of corruption in this case, the commission unanimously decided to take it as reported information, at a meeting held on August 2, under Section 17(h) [of the Anti-Corruption Law]. The commission believes there may be reliable evidence in this case.”
Under Section 17(h) money or property may be confiscated from a person who has been “illicitly enriched by such monies or properties due to bribery.” A spokesperson from the Anti-Corruption Commission told Frontier today they could provide no further comment as the investigation is ongoing.
The suspects turned themselves in following an incident on New Year’s Eve in which Aung Ye Htwe later died from severe head injuries.
They were charged with murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code but the case was dropped after the court received a petition from the victim’s elder brother, plaintiff Ko Thant Zin Oo and his family, under Section 494(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
No reason was given for the request, but local media reports speculated that defendant Ko Than Htut Aung and his co-defendants may have paid the family to drop the charges.
A Facebook campaign accused the court and the suspects of corruption while lawyers and activists said the acquittal risked undermining what public confidence remained in the judicial system.
Win Myint, who is trained as a barrister, took a personal interest in the case, government spokesperson U Zaw Htay told media earlier this week.
At a meeting with government officials in Yangon on July 29 the president stressed the importance of the rule of law in a democratic system and the need for the judicial sector to be free from bias and corruption, the Irrawaddy reported.
Zaw Htay told media the remaining eight witnesses in the case would testify once the court formally reopens the case. He said there were reports that the suspects had left the country and that if that were the case, Myanmar would cooperate with international police to ensure they returned.