Army officials moved to govt ministries

Around 1700 low-ranking army officials have been transferred to government ministries since elections last year.

A source in the Burmese government said that military officials were effectively replacing thousands of civilian workers in offices such as the Ministry of Communication. They have been given positions from departmental head down to administrators.

It appears to be a near continuation of the major governmental shake-up that occurred prior to the November 2010 elections, when hundreds of top-ranking military officials ostensibly retired so that they could compete in the polls.

The move sparked serious doubt about the Burmese junta’s pledge to form a civilian government, particularly so given that a quarter of the new parliament is made up of pre-appointed military men still in their uniforms.

The source said that the recent appointment of army officials to government departments has created procedural difficulties for civilian workers, with the military unfamiliar with the inner-workings of ministries yet being automatically elevated to senior positions.

Parliament is due to hold its first session on 31 January, with the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) dominating seats. It won 80 percent of the vote, while the National Unity Party, also with close ties to the regime, came in second.

The 388 army representatives for parliament were named by state media last week, and rank from brigadier-general down to captain. They will hold significant sway over the decision-making process – under the 2008 constitution, they can appoint 25 percent of all legislators, enabling them the power of veto.

A source close to the army said last week that the 388 include Burmese graduates from military schools in Russia, as well as army doctors, but that no personnel from combat and infantry troops were appointed.

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