Myanmar Regime Returns Public Administration Oversight to Home Affairs Ministry

By The Irrawaddy 6 May 2021

The Myanmar junta transferred control of the General Administration Department (GAD)—the backbone of the country’s public administrative mechanism—back to its Home Affairs Ministry on Wednesday.

The transfer of the department comes as the regime pushes to revive the neighborhood surveillance networks utilized by successive military governments.

Under a policy implemented by the GAD, residents of some townships in Yangon Region were recently forced to register overnight guests staying in their homes in a move designed to make it harder for opponents of the regime to evade arrest.

The department is central to the function of local governance from the village and ward levels to the Union level. It oversees population registration, land registration and collection of demographic data, while also supervising administration, local dispute resolution, tax collection and compilation of voter lists.

It also supports government security efforts—such as imposing bans on activities that pose a threat to rule of law and stability, or suing people who commit arms-related crimes—while reporting relevant information back to Naypyitaw.

In December 2018, the National League for Democracy (NLD) government transferred control of the GAD from military to civilian oversight under the Ministry of the Office of the Union Government. It was one of the most significant elements of the reform agenda of the NLD government, which was overthrown by the junta on Feb. 1.

Following the transfer, the NLD government introduced reforms to the GAD to establish good governance and people-centered regional development works.

However, rolling back those reforms, the junta on Wednesday night announced it will put the GAD back under the authority of the Home Affairs Ministry.

Since the coup, the junta has been replacing ward and village administrators. Previously, ward and village administrators were directly elected by residents under the Ward and Village-Tract Administration Law. They are now directly appointed by the township administrative councils formed by the military regime.

However, junta-appointed administrators have been rejected by local people in several places and faced protests. In the face of this opposition, some military-appointed administrators have submitted their resignations, saying they don’t want to be ostracized by their communities.

The Irrawaddy contacted a few administrators who are continuing to work under the junta but they declined to comment on the GAD’s return to Home Affairs Ministry oversight.

One of them said, “Our duty is just to implement government policies and report them,” declining to comment further.

Several administrators at the district, township and ward levels have joined government employees from a range of government ministries who are on strike as part of the civil disobedience movement (CDM).

Launched a few days after the coup, the CDM is a widespread protest movement against the regime. Participants refuse to work under the men in uniform, in an effort to make the country impossible for them to govern.

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