YANGON – Myanmar’s incoming finance minister said Wednesday he was shocked to discover his PhD is fake after netizens pointed out he had been a victim of a high profile scam run out of Pakistan that ensnared thousands of others.
Kyaw Win was one of 18 people named on Tuesday to the incoming cabinet of democracy veteran Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) will take office at the end of the month – ending decades of military-led rule.
The 68-year-old was one of six NLD members in Suu Kyi’s big-tent cabinet – which also includes three army officers as well as opposition party figures.
Suu Kyi, who is banned from becoming president, was confirmed as foreign minister while the other roles are expected to be formally announced later in the week.
However local media widely published a leaked list of earmarked roles, with Kyaw Win, a career bureaucrat and adviser to the NLD’s economics committee, taking the influential finance and planning portfolio.
An official CV issued by the NLD shortly after the cabinet announcement stated he held a PhD from a college in the United States called Brooklyn Park University.
But social media users quickly pointed out that Brooklyn Park was one of a number of fake online organisations created by a Pakistani group that ran a global fraudulent degree empire out of Karachi until its exposure last year.
“I openly admit it that I studied at this fake online university in my older age,” Kyaw Win, who confirmed he would take on the finance portfolio, told AFP.
He explained how, like many others in junta-run Myanmar, he had a thirst for education but little opportunity to study abroad.
“Education has been my dream since I was young. I never stopped studying my whole life. But I could not study abroad because I did not have enough money,” he said.
Kyaw Win said he did not discover the degree was fake until the the news spread on Facebook after his cabinet nomination Tuesday, an experience he described as “really painful”.
Myanmar has undergone a dramatic political transformation since 2011 after almost a half-century of isolation under a military junta.
Its growing political openness was crowned by a historic November election that saw the NLD storm to victory.
Suu Kyi, 70, is the only woman on the incoming cabinet. There is widespread speculation she will take on four ministerial portfolios: foreign affairs, education, energy and the president’s office.
Blocked from becoming president by a junta-era constitution because she married and had children with a foreigner, she has vowed to rule through a proxy president, the recently elected Htin Kyaw.