The Irrawaddy

New Govt Cuts Military Personnel Appointed to Civil Service

Union Civil Service Board member U Saw Valentine. (Photo: Htet Naing Zaw / Irrawaddy)

NAYPYIDAW — The government body responsible for recruiting, appointing, and training civil servants no longer allows transfer of military officers to senior posts in the civilian administration under the new government of National League for Democracy (NLD), according to a member of the Union Civil Service Board (UCSB).

“There are civil servant laws, and by-laws. We have to function according to them. There are exceptions if Union government can allow. But normally, the procedures have to be in line with laws, and by-laws,” said UCSB member U Saw Valentine at a government press conference on Thursday.

Successive governments since military dictator Ne Win’s coup in 1962 have transferred retired and serving military officers into management positions in various civilian departments. They are often referred to in Burmese language as “Moe kya shwe ko,” meaning those who come from above and enjoy privileges.

Military appointees have stifled the progress of experienced civilian staff and their mismanagement has led to the malfunction of civilian departments and the administration at large, critics have pointed out.

Though the new government no longer allows transfer of military officers to civilian departments, 22 captains and majors from the Ministry of Defense injured or disabled in the line of duty were transferred to civilian departments with the approval of the cabinet since April last year, said director-general of UCSB U Kyaw Soe.

“The program was initiated under the previous government to provide a living for military officers who have become disabled as well as give them psychological encouragement,” said U Kyaw Soe.

The number of army appointees was more than that in previous years, according to U Kyaw Soe.

When civilian departments need recruits or technicians, the defense ministry is the only ministry that has staff and technicians at hand, according to U Saw Valentine.

“For example, if a particular ministry needs IT technicians, it has to find them in other ministries. If other ministries have no [spare] IT technicians to give, but the army has, then they are transferred,” said U Saw Valentine.

Currently, ministry senior management positions such as permanent secretary, director-general, and managing director are all held by army appointees. In August 2015, medical professionals and students organized a black ribbon movement in protest against the appointment of military officers to positions within the Ministry of Health.

“It is not a problem if the appointee has the capacity and deserves the post he is transferred to,” said an assistant director of the Ministry of Health on the condition of anonymity.

“But if [the appointee] knows nothing about it and is just sent from above, the experienced staff will not be happy. If the right men are not in the right places, it is a loss for the country,” he added.