Kyaw Thu’s Transfer Questions Junta’s Intentions
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Saturday, October 31, 2020
Burma

Kyaw Thu’s Transfer Questions Junta’s Intentions


By WAI MOE Thursday, February 5, 2009


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Two days ago, Kyaw Thu was a deputy foreign minister who traveled to the Irrawaddy delta region with visiting UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari. In Thursday’s issue of The New Light of Myanmar he is described as chairman of the Civil Service Selection and Training Board, considered a minister level but inactive post.

The New Light of Myanmar report was accompanied by a photo of Kyaw Thu at Wednesday’s observances of the 61st anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence Day in Rangoon.
 
The apparent reshuffle confused international observers and rang alarm bells within UN agencies and INGOs operating inside Burma.

Why the consternation? Kyaw Thu is chairman of the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) formed after Cyclone Nargis to coordinate aid to the stricken regions and grouping Burma, the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Three representatives from three Burmese ministries were originally appointed to the group—Kyaw Thu, the Acting Director-General of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Resettlement, Aung Tun Khaing, and the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Than Aye.

The purpose of the TCG is to act as an Asean-led mechanism to facilitate trust, confidence and cooperation between Burma and the international community in the urgent humanitarian relief and recovery work after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma.

Since the formation of the TCG, Kyaw Thu has been seen meeting foreign dignitaries and jetting around Asean nations. Despite being a former military commander and a loyal supporter of the regime, he earned popularity among international non-government organizations, UN agencies and Asean itself, where he was praised for being cooperative and helpful.

This is not the first time Kyaw Thu has unexpectedly been shifted from one post to another. He was made an ambassador after a dispute with one powerful military commander, taking charge of embassies in South Africa and India. Ambassador postings are considered a demotion in Burma.

It is still unclear, however, whether Kyaw Thu will be relinquishing his position at the head of the TCG. 

Termsak Chalermpalanupap, an official in the Asean Secretary-General Office, told The Irrawaddy by e-mail that, as far as the office understands, Kyaw Thu will remain TCG Chairman, at least until the upcoming launch of the Post-Nargis Recovery Planning (PONREP) Report in Bangkok on February 9.

The TCG agreement between the Burmese regime, the UN and Asean expires in June. A Cyclone Nargis donor meeting is to be held next week in Bangkok.

Burmese analysts said that Kyaw Thu’s future with the TCG is uncertain because, in his new position, he no longer works as a minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry is said to be plagued by rivalry and personal conflict. Foreign minister Nyan Win and Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint, neither of whom speak good English and who lack international experience, are at loggerheads with Kyaw Thu. 

Ohn Maung, a veteran politician in Rangoon, said Kyaw Thu was kicked upstairs because he was too exposed, too smart and too popular with foreigners and within Asean.

The xenophobic regime usually suspects ministers and officials who are close to the international community and who are often purged or sent into retirement.

“The generals demand a loyal guy, not a smart one,” said Ohn Maung.

An expert with the TCG said anonymously: “If the regime still wants him at the TCG, he could continue the post. So wait and see.”

According to INGO workers operating in Burma, Kyaw Thu readily approved visas for foreign relief workers who wanted to assist Cyclone Nargis victims.

A Scandinavian aid worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that INGOs and international donors had worked effectively with Kyaw Thu.

If Kyaw Thu were now discarded “this is not good news for INGOs,” he said. “INGOs and the UN working in Burma hope that the door will open more and more. This is not a good sign.”

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