South Korea to Help Reform Myanmar’s Once Military-Controlled Administration

By Nan Lwin 24 September 2019

YANGON—South Korea is planning to assist the Myanmar government to reform its General Administration Department (GAD), a backbone of the country’s public administration.

The GAD was transferred from military to civilian control, under the Ministry of the Union Government Office, in late December 2018.

On Monday, the ministry and the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety jointly organized the “Myanmar-Korea Cooperation Forum on Public Administration,” attended by about 80 Myanmar officials and 13 Korean counterparts.

U Tin Myint, deputy Union Government Office minister, said his ministry will collaborate with the Korean government on a wide range of sectors in order to reform the GAD.

“International experience and knowledge are crucial for reform processes in the country,” the minister said.

The collaboration comes from a pledge by South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his visit to Myanmar in early September, according to the Ministry of Information (MOI). Under the plan, South Korea will support capacity building for public administration and the promotion of public services in Myanmar.

At the forum, officials discussed local administration, public service, disaster management, intelligent transportation systems and capacity building for civil service personnel, according to the MOI.

According to Minister of the Office of the Union Government U Min Thu, the first three months after the GAD came under civil control were devoted to the physical aspects of transferring control. The second three-month period was focused on reforming the department’s core functions.

In May, U Min Thu unveiled the ministry’s plan to reform the GAD, which includes revising the department’s staff code of conduct and manuals as well as the curriculum of the Institute of Development Administration (IDA). The IDA provides leadership, administration and management training to GAD staff.

U Min Thu said he would form a ministry-level Regulatory Review Unit to revise staff manuals and the code of conduct, and review existing directives and protocols for any necessary amendments. The review unit will comprise two members of the ministry’s advisory board and staff from the ministry and the GAD. The department is also speeding up efforts to revise the IDA’s curriculum to meet international standards.

Formerly overseen by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA), the GAD has formed the backbone of Myanmar’s public administration for more than 30 years. Under the 2008 Constitution, MOHA is one of three ministries led by major-generals appointed by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The GAD is authorized to support government security efforts, the rule of law and stability, and enforce some civil laws. Its duties also include reporting on population movements, security incidents and basic demographic data, and conveying relevant information back to Naypyitaw.

Human rights groups and political activists have long chafed under what they see as excessive scrutiny and interference by the GAD, viewing the department as basically a tool to suppress their activities while providing on-the-ground information from across the country to MOHA.

Since the department was transferred to the ministry, U Min Thu has traveled across the country urging staff to change their mindset and shed old habits when carrying out their duties.

The Ministry of the Office of the Union Government was created by the current administration. In November, U Min Thu, a retired colonel and former Air Force pilot, was appointed as its minister.

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