Judge: Yangon doctor's papers may not be fake

No proof certs are fake although doc is not on Myanmar Medical Council list

A doctor from Myanmar has been cleared of producing fake medical certificates here.

District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam in judgment grounds released yesterday said the prosecution had not proven the two certificates were fraudulent documents.

She made clear that just because Dr Hnin Wai Hlaing was not on the Myanmar Medical Council's (MMC) registration list did not mean her certificates from Yangon were counterfeit.

She also noted that a key witness from the MMC had conceded it was difficult to say whether Dr Hnin's registration certificate was false because the MMC has many versions of the card.

The judge added that the defence had raised "reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of the MMC's manual register which the prosecution's witness had relied on to the exclusion of all else".

Dr Hnin, 40, had been charged with producing to the Singapore Medical Council two fake certificates of registration and good standing said to be issued by the MMC in order to satisfy practising requirements here.

A graduate from the University of Medicine 1 in Yangon, she worked as a doctor there before moving to Singapore in 2008. She worked at the National Cancer Centre here and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) from 2013.

SGH did a verification check with the MMC in 2014. It replied that it did not issue a registration certificate or a certificate of good standing to Dr Hnin. After a probe, SGH terminated her contract in November 2014.

In court, the prosecution's case rested on the strength of the MMC's manual records. The prosecution invited the court to infer that Dr Hnin's certificates were fraudulent because she was not on the MMC's register of doctors.

Dr Naing Win from the MMC testified that the registration number of Dr Hnin's certificate was assigned to another doctor who is still alive and concluded that Dr Hnin's registration certificate was not issued by the MMC.

In court, Dr Naing produced a photocopy of an extract from the MMC's manual register of doctors.

Dr Hnin's lawyer, Mr Peter Ong, pointed to several corrections made to the registration numbers with white fluid but Dr Naing was unable to explain why they were done or what was amended.

The judge found this "significant". Dr Naing was also unable to produce a true copy of the MMC's manual register for 2004 to 2006 as asked by the court, saying he was denied by the MMC and could only produce electronic records.

But the electronic records shed no light on the questions relating to the correction patches.

Mr Ong suggested, among other things, that Dr Hnin could have been given a wrong registration number or there had been an administrative lapse. Judge Ponnampalam agreed: "From Dr Naing Win's responses, it is evident that a mistake could have gone undetected until such a time like in this case, when circumstances prompt a search of the register."

The judge added there was no dispute that Dr Hnin graduated as a doctor and " had no reason not to register herself with the MMC or to subsequently produce fraudulent certificates." The prosecution is appealing against the decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'Judge: Yangon doctor's papers may not be fake'. Print Edition | Subscribe