President U Thein Sein has nominated the head of the Air Force to lead the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology following the resignation of U Thein Tun last month.
Commander-in-Chief (Air) General Myat Hein will be responsible for overseeing a ministry that is simultaneously conducting a closely watched tender for telecommunications licences and the subject of a large corruption investigation that has already seen eight people arrested.
The decision bucks the recent trend towards civilians – including a number who have never served in the military – being appointed to minister and deputy minister posts.
In another surprise move, the president also appointed Lieutenant General Thet Naing Win from the Ministry of Defence as minister for border affairs, replacing Lieutenant General Thein Htay.
Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker U Khin Aung Myint read the February 5 message from President U Thein Sein to representatives on February 8. The message said Lt Gen Thein Htay would revert to the position he held before being appointed a union minister but did not specify what that position was.
Both of the men nominated last week were born in 1955 but the message revealed few other biographical details.
National Democratic Force co-founder U Khin Maung Swe, who is a member of the Rakhine conflict investigation commission, said he was surprised at the decision to remove Lt Gen Thein Htay.
“I’ve met Lt Gen Thein Htay twice and he knew a lot about border affairs. He has foresight and a gentle manner. I can’t say why he was recalled back to his former role,” U Khin Maung Swe said.
He said the change would not impact the investigation commission’s activities or report, which is expected at the end of March.
“For our investigation commission, it doesn’t matter who the minister is. It is an independent group,” he said.
Translated by Thiri Min Htun