Myanmar's Western Commander Appointed Deputy Minister at Military-Controlled Border Affairs Ministry

By Htet Naing Zaw 28 July 2020

Naypyitaw — Major General Phone Myat, the outgoing chief of Myanmar military’s Western Command which oversees Rakhine State, has been appointed deputy minister at the military-controlled Border Affairs Ministry.

President U Win Myint announced on Monday that Maj-Gen Phone Myat will replace Maj-Gen Than Htut as the deputy border affairs minister, and the latter will return to his military duties.

Under the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, ministers and deputy ministers of the home, defense and border affairs ministries are nominated by the commander-in-chief of the defense services and then appointed with presidential approval.

“Western Command chief Maj-Gen Phone Myat was appointed deputy border affairs minister out of necessity. The deputy home affairs minister, Maj-Gen Aung Thu, was replaced for the same reason,” said Myanmar’s military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun.

Maj-Gen Htin Latt Oo, the current commandant of the Defense Services Academy, will replace Maj-Gen Phone Myat as the Western Command chief.

In May 2019, Maj-Gen Phone Myat, who was then the chief of Northwestern Command swapped with Maj-Gen Soe Tint Naing, who was the Western Command chief overseeing clashes with the Arakan Army.

Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said at the time the reshuffle was made in response to military requirements.

Maj-Gen Phone Myat, who is thought to be 56, served as the chief of the Northeastern Command in 2017 and Northwestern Command in 2019 before becoming the Western commander.

There were over 150 graduates from his intake at the Officer Training School. A fellow graduate was the current Northern Command chief, Maj-Gen Tay Zar Kyaw.

Of the three ministers and three deputy ministries at the ministries controlled by the military, only Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sein Win, Deputy Defense Minister Maj-Gen Myint Nwe and Border Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Ye Aung have not recently changed positions.

In May 2018, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Maj-Gen Aung Soe returned to military duties as commander of the Bureau of Special Operations, being promoted to lieutenant general.

He earlier served as 33 Brigade commander and the Northeastern Command chief. He became deputy home affairs minister in the U Thein Sein administration and held the position when the National League for Democracy took office in 2016.

Maj-Gen Aung Thu succeeded him as deputy home affairs minister. He returned to his military duties in May and Maj-Gen Soe Tint Naing replaced him.

Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe, who has close ties with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, retired in early 2020 and joined the military’s auxiliary forces. He recently retired from the military.

Chief of Military Security Affairs Lt-Gen Soe Htut became the new home affairs minister in February.

The military recently made structural reforms, creating commanding officer positions in all the 14 commands, who all hold the rank of brigadier general. It said the positions would boost operational and reconnaissance capability.

“Since the Revolutionary Council [of military dictator General Ne Win in the 1960s], there was the position of ‘chief divisional commanding officer’. The position was recreated to carry out this work,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.

As part of the appointment, Yangon Region Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Aung Soe Moe was appointed as the commanding officer of Yangon Command.

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