Myanmar’s military junta seized control of the bank accounts of Open Society Foundation (OSF), belonging to billionaire George Soros after alleging it funded the ongoing protests in the country. The military issued 11 arrest warrants against staff members of the OSF.
On March 16, the OSF called on the immediate release of one of its staff members, Phyu Pa Pa Thaw, a financial officer working for the Open Society Myanmar (OSM), as first reported by Reuters. She was arrested on suspicion of participating in the passage of illegal funds to opponents during the February 1 coup.
The OSF stated they were “deeply concerned” after Phyu Pa Pa Thaw’s arrest, and announced that the allegations of financial misconduct made against it were entirely false.
“We call for her immediate release. We are alarmed by reports that authorities are seeking to interrogate other staff members,” the OSF told Reuters in an email statement.
A Myanmar newspaper, The Global New Light of Myanmar, which is the primary channel through which the military makes its announcements, reported that the OSM transferred about US $5 million in funds “without seeking permission from the Foreign Exchange Management Department”.
The OSM is also facing allegations by the newspaper of illegally withdrawing $1.4 million from its Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank (SMED) in Myanmar in 2018.
Despite the military’s report, the OSF told Reuters that “claims of financial misconduct, including that OSM acted illegally by withdrawing their funds in local currency from the SMID bank, are false”. The organization also said claims that OSM used these funds for illegal purposes are false. These funds were used for purposes fully within the objectives of OSM.
Members opposing the military launched a civil disobedience movement (CDM), demanding the release of the detained government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to reverse the coup.
As reported by Reuters, the military responded to the CDM by striking pro-democracy protests and killing over 180 civilians, stating in its newspaper that an organization had been “providing cash assistance to CDM movements”.
The Global New Light of Myanmar also said that Phyu Pa Pa Thaw was being interrogated since March 12 about “that cash flow into the CDM movement”.
The Open Foundations said: “These allegations suggest a worrying attempt to attack and discredit those who wish for a return to peace and democracy in Myanmar.”
The protests in Myanmar have been ongoing since February 1, following an election in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide. Following her win, the military seized control over Myanmar and declared a state of emergency.
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