Impact of Shuffling Government Positions within the Military Council

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – September 25 Developments
Published by MoeMaKa on September 26, 2023

Impact of Shuffling Government Positions within the Military Council

Over the course of the two-and-a-half-year military coup, there has been a series of significant changes in the high-ranking positions within the regime. Notably, the former Minister of Home Affairs, chair of the Economic Affairs Committee, Deputy Minister of Commerce, and Secretary of the Trade and Commodity Acceleration Working Committee, have all been simultaneously relieved of their roles. These individuals have been compelled to return to their original military duties, placed under house arrest, and subjected to interrogations. Recent actions have revolved around issues such as palm oil import licenses and foreign currency purchase permits.

On September 25, in conjunction with the announcement of the Military Council’s restructuring, another minister, a deputy minister, and a member of the Election Commission were suspended from their respective duties. These developments transpired in the wake of reports that key military council leaders were being probed for corrupt practices in the last fortnight. This revelation has since been confirmed by the military council.

The exorbitant hike in palm oil prices has exposed unexpected complications, likely connected to the involvement of Lt. Gen. Moe Myint Tun, considered close to the military council leader. These issues have centered on the committee responsible for granting palm oil import permits and transactions involving foreign currency purchases at rates lower than external market prices. It seems that the military council is actively taking steps to address, reposition, or take action concerning those involved in these matters, including Lt. Gen. Moe Myint Tun.

This situation raises questions regarding why these military generals are now facing prosecution, particularly given that many of them are driven by self-interest. To address this, we must consider that the military council has been striving to conserve foreign currency since the coup. On one hand, foreign currency is essential for procuring military weaponry and sustaining the war effort, and on the other, the council is grappling with a declining supply due to its international isolation and economic sanctions.

Fearing a Sri Lanka-like economic collapse triggered by a civil war and economic mismanagement, the military council sought unorthodox means to preserve foreign currency, such as unrealistic avenues, import restrictions, and coercing expatriate Myanmar workers to repatriate foreign currency.

These consequences reflect the aftermath of the military coup, and a shift back to Myanmar’s self-sufficiency economic policy, reminiscent of the nation’s socialist era, led by military rulers. The policies reflect practices seen during the SLORC and SPDC military regimes, both of which faced international sanctions. Consequently, we are witnessing long lines of people queuing to purchase cooking oil, as well as individuals vying for palm oil after taking turns, due to the scarcity of employment opportunities.

The repercussions of civil conflict, the challenges presented by military leaders who lack economic acumen, and the consequences of an unacknowledged military coup have triggered economic disarray, leaving the populace grappling with reduced job opportunities. These issues have now extended to military council members, potentially undermining their unity and eroding the military council’s military capabilities.