Former Generals to Run Burma’s Telecoms, Border Affairs Ministries

Lt-Gen Myat Hein, commander in chief of Burma’s air force, left, meets Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Nov. 6, 2009. (Photo: Getty Images)

Burma’s President Thein Sein on Wednesday appointed two former generals to his cabinet, picking the country’s air force commander to head the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, while a senior army officer will take over the Border Affairs Ministry.

Opposition parliamentarians said in a reaction that they were powerless to question such appointments, while some added that selecting senior officers into government continued the old, flawed practices of military rule.

As the new telecoms minister, Air Force Commander-in-Chief Gen Myat Hein replaces Thein Htun, who was forced to resign last month after an anti-corruption probe at his ministry implicated him and eight other ministry officials.

Lt-Gen Thet Naing Win, from the Defense Ministry’s Bureau of Special Operations, becomes minister of border affairs. He replaces current minister Lt-Gen Thein Htay. It was announced the latter would return to the Defense Ministry, although sources close to Thein Htay have suggested that he is stepping down for health reasons.

Both appointments were approved by Parliament on Wednesday. The two new ministers are in their late 50s and were due to retire from the military within a few years.

Myat Hein, 58, has served in Burma’s armed forces since 1976. He became air force chief of staff in 2001, before former military junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe promoted him to air force commander-in-chief in 2003.

Lt-Gen Thet Naing Win was commander of the Southeastern Regional Command in the 2000s and became a chief of the army’s Bureau of Special Operations in 2010.

The new appointments serve as a reminder that most ministers in Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government are former officers who played a role in the previous junta.

Since taking office in 2011, the reformist president—who is himself a former general—has given only a handful of posts to people without a military background. Last week, the first independent parliamentarian joined his cabinet. Tin Shwe from the small National Democratic Force party became deputy tourism minister.

Opposition members said in a reaction that they were unable to question or block the two new appointments as they lacked sufficient power in the Parliament, which is dominated by the military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and military officers who have 25 percent of the seats.

“It is also difficult to say that we like or dislike the appointees because we do not know much about them, apart from some brief background information,”said Khin Saw Wai, an MP of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, a regional party from Arakan State.

She added that current Border Affairs Minister Thein Htay was knowledgeable about ethnic issues in her state, while it remained unclear whether his replacement would have the same level of understanding of such issues.

“Even if we disagree, there needs to be a majority vote to object to such [cabinet] appointments of a particular person,” Khin Saw Wai said.

Win Tin, a senior member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, said MPs and the Burmese people should object to selecting senior officers into government as it simply continues the flawed practices of past military rule.

“Giving these positions to former generals should not be allowed,” he said. “The practices continue the old methods.”

“We should express our concern about this. If all generals who are near retirement are sent to the ministries, these ministries would be like a waste dump. Our country won’t have any benefit from this situation,” Win Tin remarked.

Additional reporting by Tha Lun Zaung Htet.

11 Responses to Former Generals to Run Burma’s Telecoms, Border Affairs Ministries

  1. Logic Bomb ! So called President, Thein Sein needs more education. How a person from Air Force can have knowledge about Communication and IT ?

    • Whilst your assertion is beyond daft (no computers necessary in flying a plane let alone running an air force?) these guys are so confident nowadays they don’t even feel the need to dilute the appointments with civilians.

    • That is all they do up in the air. Communicating. What are you talking about? Yes, another military man has taken over another important position but at least and I hope the new guy knows what he is doing. But remember, all those upper management positions do not require the actual working knowledge of communication and IT. All he has to do is how to say Yes Sir! All he needs to do is say how high when his boss commands jump.

  2. It is not about who know and how they knew. It is just a game. The top of the leader’s always want his subordinate to listen his command. As far as we knew when the time the power handed over from Than Shwe to President Thein Sein , some of them just relax and didn’t pay much attention to their superior, This promotion is the best way to control and make them obey what the superior said.

    If , they are worst than they aspect than, he or she have to face, force to resign. If their were so relax and didn’t pay attention to his or her superior than he or she need to transfer or get promotion and their will get power squeeze like U Kyaw San. That is and this way was how they manage the country civil servant. So far so good.

  3. The country’s essential business sectors such as Telecommunication and Information Technology should be managed by the experienced, credible professional business mined personnel rather than ex- generals.

    The minister , Board of Directors , CEO and CFO, all senior executive personnel should be appointed or elected the credible and qualified personnel so that substantial improvements over the Burma’s Telecommunication and IT business will be achieved within a short period.

    Burma as moving toward the Democracy reform process, the country can not afford to have repeated mistakes as the lessons learned from the past is to painful to bear by the people.

    Please do reconsider the appointment.

  4. That is the reason we need to rewrite the constitution which allow 25 % of arm force personals undemocratically. U Soe

  5. communication technology is not essential to become a MPT minister.
    Important fact is to obey President Thein Sein’s and General Min Aung Hlaing orders.
    Because they want to sell Gotta phone (production of military) to the public legally as quick as possible without getting operator licence.

  6. Burma has been one of the world’s basket cases for half a century, ever since the military seized control in 1962. The generals took a country that had been one of the richest in Asia and turned it into the poorest. They did what bad dictatorships do — brutalise opponents, trash the economy and salt away their ill-gotton gains in foreign accounts. It is extraordinary to think that so little has changed and that the same idiots are still at the wheel.

    • Well, Terry, at least that gives us on this page to speculate about what could have, should have done in the other side of the globe. Just like the TV stations in everywhere with all those experts and commentators. We are getting there in some way.

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