Myanmar's Electricity Minister Reduces Workload Due to Illness

By Htet Naing Zaw 21 June 2019

NAYPYITAW—Union Minister for Electricity and Energy U Win Khine is on medical leave.

U Win Khine, who was appointed as Electricity Minister in the National League for Democracy-led government in August 2017, has been suffering from clogged arteries and diabetes. He had medical treatment abroad in the first week of June, and is now taking a rest in Yangon, government officials confirmed to The Irrawaddy.

“It is true that the minister is on medical leave,” U Htay Aung, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, told The Irrawaddy.

The minister is not bedridden, but working from his Yangon home, where he holds meetings with ministry officials. Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation U Aung Thu is assisting in the management of the Electricity Ministry.

“I heard that he has had medical treatment in Bangkok. He suffered from arterial plaque and has had a stent put in his heart. He is now back in Yangon and taking a rest. Union Minister U Aung Thu is concurrently leading the two ministries. Recently, officials from Naypyitaw had to go to Yangon to attend a meeting,” an official of the Electricity Ministry said on condition of anonymity.

The minister’s condition is not critical, and there is no need for him to retire, officials at the ministry said.

Commerce Minister U Than Myint has also experienced some health problems recently, a source close to the Cabinet in Naypyitaw told The Irrawaddy.

Myanmar has been hit by frequent power outages since summer, and electricity has been supplied on a rotating basis in towns and cities throughout the country, including Yangon.

Lower House Investment and Industrial Development Committee secretary U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo said U Win Khaing’s most noteworthy achievement has been attracting foreign investment to build three power plants. Construction on the facilities has yet to start, however.

“After they are complete, those three power plants will produce 3,000 megawatts. That will be enough [to meet the country’s energy demand]. Yet, a lot of reforms still need to be done in the electricity sector,” U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo said.

With the country’s ability to boost electricity production hampered by budget constraints, the only solution is to attract foreign investment, he said.

When the NLD took office in 2016, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi headed the Ministry of Electricity and Energy herself along with three other ministers. After becoming State Counselor, she relinquished control of the ministry, retaining only the Foreign Affairs Ministry in addition to the new role.

U Pe Zin Tun, a holdover from U Thein Sein’s administration, was then named the electricity and energy minister. He resigned on health grounds in 2017 and was replaced by U Win Khine, a graduate in electrical engineering who was then serving as Union construction minister.

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