YANGON — The newly appointed adviser to the chairperson of the Committee of the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD) said Thursday he would donate his time to the organization for free.
U Toe Oung, a former UN-World Food Program officer, commented under his Facebook post, which he shared regarding his appointment by the State Counselor’s Office: “Please be informed that I am contributing my labor free to our beloved country at no cost to the people’s budget.”
He confirmed the comment to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, adding that his advice would cover “all relevant issues.”
Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday appointed U Toe Oung as an adviser to her in her capacity as UEHRD chairperson. Her office described the adviser’s role as providing support to the committee in carrying out its activities and duties.
UEHRD was formed by presidential order in October 2017, with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as its chairperson. A private-public Union enterprise, its three main goals are “providing humanitarian assistance, carrying out resettlement and rehabilitation, and working for development in Rakhine State.”
The State Counselor’s appointment of U Toe Oung, 74, has raised a few eyebrows, as he is related to her.
U Toe Oung is a son-in-law of the late U Ba Win, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s eldest uncle. Serving as the minister of trade in the interim government of Burma in 1947, U Ba Win became one of the nine Martyrs of Myanmar when he was killed during the assassination of his younger brother, General Aung San, on July 19 of that year.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy, sources close to U Toe Oung downplayed the familial relationship between him and the state counselor, insisting that U Toe Oung is a principled man known for his deal-making skills and familiarity with UN procedures.
U Toe Oung worked with the UN agency from 1983 to 2006 as a legal, financial and consulting expert. His final position at the World Food Program was as head of finance at its office in North Korea from 2003-06. He studied at the Yangon Institute of Economics.
Political analyst Dr. Yan Myo Thein said that in principle, the appointment of an adviser was a positive development, as the state counselor herself already has her hands full and “needs someone who can interact with the people on the ground on her behalf.”
“I welcome the appointment of an adviser. Indeed, the president, the state counselor and the Cabinet need more experts to serve as advisers to them and who can listen to different perspectives,” he told The Irrawaddy.
However, he added that it would be preferable if advisers on issues related to Rakhine State, including the work of UEHRD, were themselves ethnic Rakhine, as securing the cooperation of local residents will be crucial if UEHRD is to achieve its goal of resettling and rehabilitating Muslim communities in northern Rakhine.
In August 2017, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a militant group, staged a series of attacks on official security posts that left a number of Myanmar security personnel dead. Subsequent clearance operations by the military forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.
The UEHRD is preparing to provide humanitarian and resettlement assistance to those who fled Buthitaung and Maungdaw townships in northern Rakhine state.