Military Likely to Acquire 5 Factories From Ministry of Industry

By Tin Htet Paing 7 January 2016

RANGOON — Five heavy industry manufacturing facilities formerly operated by the Ministry of Industry are being transferred to the Ministry of Defense, according to a document widely circulated on social media.

In what appears to be a leaked internal memo of the Ministry of Industry dated Dec. 7, the factories were identified as non-operational and soon to be handed over to the military for “strategic” resumption. The memo was signed by Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industry Hla Moe.

The memo continued that the Office of President Thein Sein had approved a request by the military to hand over the facilities, and that the transfer was to be formalized by Dec. 31, 2015.

Hla Moe was unavailable for comment or confirmation, though another ministry official told The Irrawaddy that such an arrangement was not unusual but that it had not yet occurred.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Wednesday, Aung Soe Ya, the industry ministry’s director of planning and statistics, said any formal transfer would have resulted in documents that passed through his department.

“My department always knows when a handover process is complete because we handle all the statistics,” Aung Soe Ya said.

While such data had not yet come across his desk, he said he was aware of the imminent deal.

Following circulation of the memo, president’s spokesman Ye Htut told Radio Free Asia that the transfer would represent “no loss for the state at all.” Netizens were concerned that the acquisition could redirect potential revenues from the state to the military.

Ye Htut said the facilities were mostly defunct, and that the transfer was likely intended to make better use of them.

“By taking care of the factories that the Ministry of Industry couldn’t run, the Ministry of Defense can manufacture products to be used for defense purposes and the country’s economy,” he said. “So I think it’s more beneficial.”

The facilities reportedly being transferred are known as Heavy Industry No. 11 (Rangoon); 12 (Htonebo); 13 (Magwe); 25 (Myaing); and a subsidiary in Mingyan. All five have been used to manufacture vehicles and automobile accessories, according to the industry ministry website.