National Security Adviser Appointed Minister of New Investment Ministry

By The Irrawaddy 20 November 2018

YANGON — Myanmar President U Win Myint has appointed the country’s national security adviser U Thaung Tun as the head of a newly formed ministry that aims to boost local and international investment and to make that investment socially and environmentally responsible.

Prior to the appointment, apart from the security adviser position, U Thaung Tun was also the government office minister.

The announcement, following the Union Parliament’s approval of the formation of the new ministry on Monday morning, said he has been transferred from government office minister to his new position of minister for the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations.

President U Win Myint last week proposed the formation of the new Union-level ministry to Parliament for approval.

Myanmar Attorney General Tun Tun Oo told Parliament on Monday that the new ministry will be a merger between the Foreign Economic Relations Department and the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration– both of which are currently under the Ministry of Planning and Finance.

He assured that the formation of the new ministry would provide swifter investment-related information to local and international investors, real-time collaboration with relevant departments and dispute resolution among investors.

The plan comes at a time when Myanmar’s economy is slowing and many international investors are turning away because of the Rohingya crisis. Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since a military crackdown in northern Rakhine State late last year. The government, led by Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has come under heavy international criticism for remaining largely silent on the issue.

In his message to Parliament last week regarding the formation of the ministry, President U Win Myint said the government needed the new ministry “to make use of outside assistance from the United Nations and other international organizations in accordance with the country’s policies and to effectively collaborate with the UN and others international organizations.”

U Thaung Tun has served as ambassador to the Philippines, Belgium, the Netherlands and the EU and was director-general for political affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the former military regime.

During that time, he was widely criticized by the opposition for warning Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – then under house arrest – that she “must not rock the boat” after she said she would boycott the military regime’s controversial constitutional convention at a 2006 press conference in Manila.

In 2016, he worked as a government relations adviser for Shell Myanmar Energy PTE.

He was appointed national security adviser in January 2017 and government office minister that November. The appointments were criticized by former lawmaker U Soe Thane, who was the president’s office minister under former President U Thein Sein. U Soe Thane reportedly said that U Thaung Tun had failed to disclose his previous work for the George Soros Foundation as a consultant and said that making him national security adviser could hurt Myanmar’s relations with China.

The former lawmaker also reportedly said that George Soros approached him to secure a ministerial appointment for U Thaung Tun, but U Thein Sein rejected the idea because George Soros was American.