19 military officers selected for management roles at Myanmar’s largest commercial public bank 

Myanmar’s military junta appointed 19 army officers to managerial positions two months ago at one of the country’s regime-controlled banks, according to information recently released by the regime.

The information, which appeared in a gazette published by the military council on April 21 and 28, noted that the 19 officers included five majors appointed as managers at the Myanma Economic Bank (MEB) and 14 captains appointed as assistant managers. No details about their previous assignments were provided.

It was a longstanding norm in Myanmar for military officers to dominate ministries during the country’s previous military regimes, which almost exclusively appointed retired or in-service military officials to top administrative positions.

Beginning in 2011, some gradual progress toward civilian control of the administration and state-owned institutions occurred under the Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi governments, but this came to a halt with the coup of February 2021.

With many members of the civil service participating in or supporting the actions and strikes organised by the Civil Disobedience Movement after the 2021 coup, the junta replaced them with military officials. 

The MEB currently operates under the Ministry of Planning and Finance. The bank has 315 open branches throughout the country and has a key role in managing wage disbursement for several regime-controlled administrative departments as well as other everyday transactions.

Before the appointment of the 19 officers last month, most of the bank’s state- and regional-level managers were already military officers. One businessman, who spoke to Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity, commented that the appointment of the officers was based not on merit but on their desire for direct control over the country’s budget and finances.

“This is exactly why our country is in ruins. The country’s condition only got so bad because those transferred military officers lack the necessary expertise and understanding,” he said. “Those transferred officers only know how to accept bribes, not how to manage business.”

He added that it was the junta’s custom to appoint retired military officers as deputy directors and directors of administrative departments. 

The military council appointed six lieutenant colonels to deputy directorships—the fourth most senior tier of leadership—at the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) in June 2022. 

Shortly after seizing power in 2021, the coup regime appointed retired army officer Than Nyein as governor of the CBM. Than Nyein had served in the same position from 2007 to 2013, starting under the earlier military dictatorship led by Than Shwe. 

In August 2022 they replaced Than Nyein with then-deputy governor Than Than Swe, another regime loyalist who had survived an assassination attempt by an armed resistance group four months earlier. 

Zaw Myint Naing, a retired brigadier general, was also appointed as a deputy governor of the CBM during a junta reshuffle in June 2022. 

Bo Bo Nge, a banking and financial expert who served as a vice-governor of the Central Bank during the democratically elected government of the National League of Democracy, has been detained since the 2021 coup.

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