Who is Kyaw Thu?
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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Who is Kyaw Thu?

By MIN LWIN Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Amid a series of as-yet unannounced reassignments in the top ranks of Burma’s military government, many political observers are paying close attention to the fate of former Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu, who gained prominence last year as the ruling junta’s liaison with the international community in the Cyclone Nargis relief effort.

Since last May, when Cyclone Nargis devastated much of the Irrawaddy delta, Kyaw Thu has served as the chairman of the Tripartite Core Group (TCG), consisting of representatives of the Burmese regime, the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Former Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu. (Photo: AP)
Kyaw Thu, who is in his late 50s, is said to be close to Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, the junta’s second-most powerful figure. Like Maung Aye, he is a graduate of the elite Defense Services Academy (DSA).

His father, the noted scholar Dr Maung Maung, who briefly assumed the position of president at the height of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, published a book entitled “To my Soldier Son” in 1974, soon after Kyaw Thu graduated as a member of the DSA’s 13th Intake.
Former military intelligence sources said that Kyaw Thu had a reputation for being forthright with his superiors.

In 1997, when he was commander of Light Infantry Division (LID) 22, based in Pa-an Township, Karen State, he got into an physical altercation with his boss Maj-Gen Myint Aung, then commander of the Southeast Regional Command.

According to the intelligence sources, Kyaw Thu’s straightforward manner made him a favorite of Maung Aye. Instead of being disciplined for insubordination for fighting with a superior officer, he was assigned to the foreign ministry.

His first overseas posting was as ambassador to South Africa. According to some former Rangoon-based Burmese diplomats, Kyaw Thu was suspected of corruption during his time in Pretoria from 1999 to 2002.

He was later assigned to head the Burmese embassy in Paris, but the French government refused to recognize his credentials because of his connection to LID 22, which has been linked to human rights abuses.

LID 22 was notorious for its role in the crackdown on peaceful protests in 1988, and has been accused of press-ganging civilians to construct roads used in the Burmese army’s campaign against ethnic Karen rebels.

Kyaw Thu became ambassador to India in 2003, but was called back to Rangoon in late 2004 to become deputy foreign minister following the purge of Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt.

Last year he gained an even higher profile when he was named chairman of the TCG, coordinating international relief operations in the cyclone-stricken Irrawaddy delta. Aid workers who met him described him as down-to-earth and cooperative.

Kyaw Thu continued to act as deputy foreign minister until last week, when he was named chairman of the Civil Service Selection and Training Board, an inactive post.

The move came as a surprise to many who had worked with him on Nargis-related projects.

“As far as I could tell, he was very effective in his foreign ministry role, serving in a professional and friendly manner,” said one aid worker.

Although Kyaw Thu attended a TCG meeting in Bangkok on Monday, he is expected to be replaced as chairman of the group in the near future.

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