Myanmar junta fills increasing number of ministerial jobs with military officers 

Myanmar’s military regime has appointed around 160 captains, majors, and colonels to jobs in ministry offices since it seized power two years ago, according to information released by the Myanmar Gazette.

In an apparent bid to entrench its control over the country’s administrative apparatus, the regime transferred the military personnel to offices within the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Union Election Commission, and Central Bank of Myanmar, as well as the Myanma Economic Bank, another junta-controlled public bank

The regime has also put military officers in charge of universities, colleges, municipal offices, and departments at the ministries of transport and communications, construction, and commerce.

While 160 officers were appointed to high-profile leadership positions in the ministries, an unknown number of officers of lower rank have also been transferred to various administrative departments. 

Among transferred officers, 35 were majors, lieutenant colonels, or colonels, while the rest were captains. The colonels, who ranked highest among those transferred to administrative positions, were appointed as rectors or chancellors of various universities and colleges. The captains were given supervisory positions in the junta-controlled ministries.  

Many of the officers were selected for jobs normally given to bankers or statisticians at the Central Bank and other regime-controlled public banks. The junta moved a total of 28 officers to the regime-run banks, including six who were appointed as Central Bank directors.

Some of the appointments have been made to departments that have long been controlled by the military, such as the police force, the prisons department, and the General Administration Department. The latter operated under the Office of the Union Government under the previous civilian administration, but has been under the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs since the coup. 

The junta also selected at least 25 military officers for positions in the military council’s election commission. The commission has been tasked with organising elections that the regime originally planned to hold in 2023, but has yet to schedule as it struggles to secure control over large areas of the country. 

After the military arrested the chair and other members of the Union Election Commission who oversaw the 2020 election, they formed a new commission of their own and selected military officers as members.

The junta has selected still more officers for jobs in the ministries of transport, hotels and tourism, commerce, industry, border affairs, natural resources and environmental conservation, the Yangon City Development Committee, and the Constitutional Tribunal. 

There have long been provisions in place for transferring military personnel to positions in Myanmar’s ministries, including those normally filled by civilians, but the circumstances and frequency have varied.

Lawyers take part in the yellow ribbon movement against the militarisation of ministries (Phyo Hein Kyaw/ AFP via Getty Images)

According to a former civil servant who spoke with Myanmar Now, a military officer who has been wounded or received a poor health evaluation can submit an application form to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services naming three ministries where they would prefer to work, and the office decides where the applicant will be reassigned. 

However, only five of the 160 transferred military officers had received poor health evaluations. 

Since the Ne Win era, Myanmar’s military dictators have employed similar methods of transferring military officers to ministerial departments in order to consolidate administrative control. These transfers continued during the Thein Sein and National League of Democracy (NLD) administrations—which were referred to as civilian governments—but were less frequent. 

Some 200 military officers were transferred to ministerial departments during the NLD’s five years in power, of which around 50 had incurred injuries or received poor health evaluations. The rest of the transfers were made at the government’s specific request.

Civil servants opposed this “militarisation” of the administration, wearing black or yellow ribbons to work as a show of protest in late 2015. The military regime has cracked down ruthlessly on popular opposition since the coup, and protests of this kind have become rare. 

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