In the NLD’s Cabinets, a High Rate of Turnover

By Nan Lwin 30 July 2019

YANGON—The Union government announced its latest cabinet reshuffle on Friday, with Industry Minister U Khin Maung Cho resigning his position amid a corruption scandal. The electricity minister and his deputy are currently under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in a separate scandal.

U Khin Maung Cho is the second Union minister forced out by corruption allegations since the National League for Democracy (NLD) came to power in 2016. In May last year, U Kyaw Win was sacked as finance minister while under investigation by the ACC.

In a bid to reduce government expenditure, the NLD began its administration with 19 ministers heading 21 ministries. There were also eight deputy ministers serving in the ministries of Commerce, the State Counselor’s Office, Border Affairs, Finance and Planning, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, the President’s Office, and Transport and Communications.

However, the cabinet has expanded significantly since then. The most recent addition came last year, when the NLD created the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations. The government now has 25 ministries led by 24 Union ministers and 20 deputy ministers.

Since the NLD took office in 2016, nearly 20 ministers including some at the state and regional level have been sacked or resigned for various reasons including health problems, corruption scandals and performance issues, and in some cases for unexplained reasons.

In 2016, Dr. Tun Win, was dismissed as deputy minister for agriculture, livestock and irrigation following a disagreement with his minister, Dr. Aung Thu.

U Pe Zin Tun, the Union minister for electricity and energy, resigned from his position in August 2017. The President’s Office announced that he submitted his resignation of his own volition. However, rumors spread that the resignation was due to concerns over his social life and lack of activity on the ground as a Union minister. But the President’s Office did not comment further and the reasons for his departure remain unclear.

A longtime confidant of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, then President U Htin Kyaw resigned in March last year after less than two years in office. A President’s Office announcement said he wanted to take a rest. The 71-year-old president was believed to be in ill health due to his frail appearance and absence from some state functions. He had also received medical treatment overseas.

Changes in leadership under the NLD government have occurred at the state and regional levels in recent years.

One of the youngest chief ministers under the NLD government, U Min Min Oo, resigned in February 2017. U Min Min Oo was one of the NLD members against whom complaints were lodged in 2016 by state lawmakers regarding reported misconduct, along with his state parliament speakers. The NLD leadership formed an official inquiry to investigate the allegations. NLD Central Executive Committee member U Win Htein said the reason for U Min Min Oo’s resignation was poor leadership performance.

In January 2018, then Irrawaddy Region Chief Minister Mahn Jonny and the regional minister of agriculture, livestock, natural resources and environmental conservation, Ba Hein, resigned from their positions, citing health problems.

In March, Daw Lei Lei Maw, chief minister of Tanintharyi Region, was dismissed from her position following bribery and corruption allegations. She was later arrested on bribery and corruption charges after the Anti-Corruption Commission found that she abused her position and committed corruption on a number of occasions since April 2016.

In January, the Kachin chief minister ordered the state ministers of agriculture, livestock and irrigation; environment and natural resources; and social affairs to resign their positions without giving a reason other than to say that the instruction came from State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The move prompted a collective demand for greater transparency from more than three dozen community-based organizations in Kachin State, but the Union government did not respond.

Under the NLD government, 11 state and regional minsters—holding the portfolios of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation; Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement; Natural Resources and Environment; Electricity and Energy; and Municipal Affairs—had to resign their positions. The reasons were not announced, but were believed to be related to poor performance.

The graphics below chart the changes in NLD cabinets at the Union and state/regional levels. 

The National League for Democracy’s Top Incumbent Cabinet Members

Red text designates positions that have changed hands at least once.

*The minister for industry resigned from his position on Friday. The government has not yet assigned a new minister.

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