Junta’s investment ministry fires more than 80 staff over CDM participation

More than 80 staff members from the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Economic Relations have been dismissed for participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), which aims to topple Myanmar’s ruling junta. 

A total of 83 people have been fired by ex-military major Aung Naing Oo, the current head of the ministry, a position to which he was appointed by the regime one day after the February 1 coup.

Among those who lost their jobs were 17 management-level workers and 45 general staff from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), and seven people from management and 14 general staff from the Foreign Economic Relations Department (FERD).  

The staff members had been active in the CDM since February 8, one week after the military coup ousted the elected government. 

The letter sent to employees from the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Economic Relations on April 6 dismissing them for participating in the CDM, noting that their termination was effective March 22

One of the striking staffers told Myanmar Now that prior to their recent dismissal, they had received only one written warning ordering them to return to work: a letter issued on March 22. 

They were dismissed on April 7, he said, and forced to move out of the government housing provided for civil servants and their families. 

“I don’t think it’s fair. They didn’t really inform us,” the staff member, who had worked for DICA, said. “They put out the dismissal letter on April 6 for those in Yangon and told them to move out overnight. They’re all experienced staff and can’t move out immediately.”

The ministry’s announcement stated that the employees had been terminated for taking an unauthorised leave of absence and for failing to carry out their responsibilities or follow orders.

The dismissed DICA staff member added that other employees of the ministry who are known to be considering joining the CDM are either being threatened or lured into staying with promises of promotions.  

“There is just and there is unjust. We can’t work under the dictatorship. We’ll keep holding on until the civilian government comes back to power,” he said.

A total of 756 people work at the ministry throughout Myanmar; an estimated 100 have joined the CDM. 

The President’s Office under the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw– a body made up of elected lawmakers– announced on March 21 that workers who participated in the CDM would be rewarded in the future, but action would be taken against those who had continued to serve under the junta. 

Pressure on ministry grows as investment interest declines

Minister Aung Naing Oo, who was previously the director-general of DICA and permanent secretary of the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Economic Relations, has long had a reputation of pressuring staff members not to leave their posts. 

“When he was the director[-general], he threatened staff members who wanted to quit to study abroad, saying he would make their caseloads bigger,” the striking staff member told Myanmar Now, adding that he had heard that Aung Naing Oo was trying to put the dismissed CDM staff on a blacklist so that they would not easily find work again. 

Under ex-general Thein Sein’s administration, which came to power in 2011, Aung Naing Oo was appointed secretary of the investment commission, and was promoted under the now ousted National League for Democracy government. 

Since accepting the junta’s appointment to head the current ministry, Aung Naing Oo has been confronted with non-engagement from Western diplomats and a lack of interest in pursuing investment under the regime. 

He invited officials from the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry for a meeting in Naypyitaw on March 4, but it was cancelled when no one showed up. 

On the same day, the Yangon-based American Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce, Italy-Myanmar Business Association were invited to Naypyitaw to meet; they all publicly announced that they would not be attending. 

The ministry announced on April 3 that it had held a meeting regarding the European Union’s (EU) development aid to Myanmar. However, the embassy of France announced that neither representatives from France nor Germany, both EU members, attended the meeting. 

The EU has suspended all development assistance to Myanmar and placed sanctions against 11 military leaders over their roles in the coup. 

The striking DICA employee who spoke to Myanmar Now said that Aung Naing Oo’s ministry had not received any foreign investment commitments in the two months since the coup, despite efforts by the regime to gain international recognition.

“There’s no new investment coming in. They formed a new investment commission without letting it be known publicly,” he said, adding that DICA had been holding economic discussions with China. 

Another recently dismissed employee from FERD speculated that the ministry would be unable to achieve breakthroughs with Western countries under the current conditions, but predicted further business exploration by the regime with other Southeast Asian countries, as well as with China. 

An April 9 joint statement signed by ambassadors to Myanmar from New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, the UK, US and EU countries including Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden called on the military regime to halt its violence against the public, release detained politicians, and restore democracy. 

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), at least 701 civilians have been killed by the junta’s armed forces in crackdowns on anti-coup protests since February 1. 


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