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REGIME WATCH > CABINET MINISTERS
 
Lt Gen Wai Lwin
Defense Minister
 
Lt Gen Wai Lwin is a former military-appointed MP for the Rangoon Division Parliament. In September 2012, President Thein Sein appointed Wai Lwin as Defense Minister. He was on the EU blacklist from December 2003 until May 2012.

Wai Lwin graduated from the 18th intake of the Defence Services Academy in Maymyo, Mandalay Division in 1976. He was the Tatmadaw’s former Naypyidaw Command Commander from May 2006 to July 2012 and the former Rangoon Command Deputy Commander from 2003 until 2006. In August 2010, Wai Lwin replaced Maj Gen Hla Min as Tatmadaw Quartermaster-General. On 12 July 2012, he was appointed to the Rangoon Division Parliament and became the highest ranking military representative in both the national and regional legislatures.

In August 2011, regime authorities questioned Wai Lwin on suspicion of corruption during his tenure as Naypyidaw Command Commander and he was temporarily relieved of his duties as Quartermaster-General. Wai Lwin is a close associate of former State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Chairman Sr Gen Than Shwe.

As Defense Minister in President Thein Sein’s cabinet, Wai Lwin actively promoted the interests of the military. In November 2012, he defended the Monywa copper mine in Sagaing Division, a joint venture between China’s Wanbao mining company and the military conglomerate Union of Myanmar Economics Holdings (UMEH). Wai Lwin said that if Burma broke contracts with foreign companies it would deter future foreign investment. In March 2013, Wai Lwin defended the Defense Ministry’s proposal to allocate one-fifth of the national budget to the Defense Ministry for the fiscal year 2013-2014. He said that the failure to build military strength could “lead to the loss” of Burma’s “independence, sovereignty and lands at any time.” In June 2013, Wai Lwin told Parliament that the Tatmadaw would return only 18,300 (or 6.1%) of the 297,000 acres of land it confiscated across Burma from 1988 to 2010.

 
Wunna Maung Lwin
Foreign Affairs Minister
Date of Birth: 30 May 1952
Wunna Maung Lwin is a former Colonel who served as the State Peace and Development Council’s (SPDC) Director-General of the Ministry of Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs from July 1998 to September 2000. He was also the SPDC Ambassador to Israel in 2000-2001 and to France from 2001 to 2004. In 2005, US authorities rejected the military junta’s proposal for Wunna Maung Lwin to become the SPDC’s Ambassador in Washington. In 2007, Wunna Maung Lwin became the permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, a position he maintained until President Thein Sein appointed him as Foreign Affairs Minister in March 2011.

Born in Thaton, Mon State, Wunna Maung Lwin graduated from the 16th intake of the Defense Services Academy in 1974 and attended the National Defence College in Rangoon in 1996. In 1988, he was promoted to the rank of Major and served with the Rangoon based Infantry Battalion (IB) 6. In 1989, he joined the Tatmadaw Regional Command in Thaton, Mon State, and was involved in the military offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU) in Maethawar, Karen State. In 1994, Wunna Maung Lwin was posted to the Light Infantry Division (LID) 44 in Kyainnseikyi, Karen State.

As the regime’s representative to the UN, he regularly defended the SPDC from accusations of human right violations. On 11 December 2007, Wunna Maung Lwin dismissed a report by then- UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, which accused the SPDC of using excessive force during the 2007 Saffron Revolution. He told the UN Human Rights Council that exercising the country’s “sovereign right” to use force to handle violent situations should not be “construed as a violation of human rights.” On 11 March 2010, Wunna Maung Lwin also rejected allegations by Pinheiro’s successor, Tomás Ojea Quintana, that the ongoing “gross and systematic violations” of human rights in Burma were “the result of a state policy.” Wunna Maung Lwin instead accused Ojea Quintana of violating the “right of a sovereign state.”

After having defended the SPDC’s abysmal human rights record at the UN for many years, as FM in President Thein Sein’s cabinet, he routinely shielded Naypyidaw from international criticism. On 30 July 2012, Wunna Maung Lwin rejected allegations of widespread human rights abuses against Rohingya during unrest in Arakan State and claimed that regime authorities had “exercised maximum restraint” in order to restore law and order. He also denied that the unrest stemmed from religious oppression or discrimination. In August 2012, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) planned an emergency meeting to address the violence against Rohingya in Arakan State. Wunna Maung Lwin told ASEAN that the unrest in Arakan State did not constitute a humanitarian crisis and that the riots were “purely inter-communal violence” and therefore did not need to be addressed by other ASEAN member states.

 
Aung Kyi 
Information Minister
Date of Birth: 1 November 1946
Aung Kyi is a former Major General who served as Labor Minister under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) from October 2007 to March 2011. He maintained this position under President Thein Sein until August 2012, when Thein Sein appointed him as Information Minister. He was also Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement Minister from March 2011 to August 2012, a role he held concurrently with his position as Labor Minister. Aung Kyi is a member of the regime’s Committee for Prevention of Military Recruitment of Under-age Children. He was elected as the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) MP for Mingala Taungnyunt Township, Rangoon Division, in the 2010 elections. He was on the EU blacklist from May 2000 to May 2012.

Born in Rangoon, Aung Kyi graduated from the 25th intake of the Officers Training School in Hmawby, Rangoon Division. Aung Kyi was the Commandant of the Tatmadaw’s Defence Services Officer Training School before taking up ministerial positions in the SPDC cabinet.

As SPDC Labor Minister, Aung Kyi re-established a working relationship with the International Labour Organization (ILO) after the Geneva-based agency threatened to report Burma to the International Court of Justice for prosecuting people who lodged forced labor complaints against the regime. In March 2007, he negotiated a deal with the ILO to establish a system for reporting forced labor practices.

In October 2007, in an effort to appease world opinion and prevent closer scrutiny from the UN Security Council following the violent crackdown during the Saffron Revolution, SPDC Chairman Sr Gen Than Shwe appointed Aung Kyi as Relations Minister. His role was to act as liaison officer in the negotiations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during her house arrest. Between October 2007 and October 2011 Aung Kyi and Daw Suu met 13 times. In January 2008, Daw Suu expressed dissatisfaction over the meetings with Aung Kyi saying she feared the regime was toying with her and that the talks might give rise to “false hope.”

Although Aung Kyi replaced notorious hardliner Kyaw Hsan as Information Minister, restrictions on press freedom continued. Under Aung Kyi, in January 2013, the regime Information Ministry replaced its Censorship Board with a similar body called the Central Supervisory Committee for Registration and Distribution of Printers and Publishers (CSCRDPP). The committee, headed by Aung Kyi, was responsible for monitoring publications and issuing, suspending, and revoking publishing licenses. In addition, in March 2013, the regime Information Ministry introduced new press legislation - the Printing and Publishing Bill - in Parliament. The draft legislation contained prohibitions including restrictions on the publication of reports that “jeopardize community tranquility and prevalence of law and order” and “break the provisions” of the constitution. Aung Kyi defended the bill in Parliament, claiming that legislative restrictions were aimed at protecting the national interest and preventing “poisonous writings in magazines and journals.”

 
Myint Hlaing
Agriculture and Irrigation Minister
Date of Birth: 13 August 1953
Myint Hlaing is a former Lieutenant General who served as Chief of Air Defence under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) from May 2006 to August 2010. He was elected as Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) MP for Naypyidaw’s Dekkhinathiri Township in the 2010 elections. President Thein Sein appointed him as Agriculture and Irrigation Minister in March 2011. He was on the EU blacklist from October 2002 until May 2012.

Born in Mogok Township, Mandalay Division, Myint Hlaing graduated from the 17th intake of the Defence Services Academy in 1975. He is a close associate of former SPDC Vice Sr Gen Maung Aye, having served under him in the Tatmadaw’s Eastern Command during the late 1980s. In 1995, Myint Hlaing attended military training in Nanjing, China. In 2001, he became Tatmadaw Northeastern Regional Command Commander based in Lashio, Shan State.

As Tatmadaw Northeastern Regional Command Commander, Myint Hlaing oversaw the arrest of several high-profile regime figures as well as leaders of ethnic armed groups. In 2004, he played a key role in uncovering corruption amongst Military Intelligence (MI) staff in Muse Township, Shan State. The crackdown led to the arrest of hundreds of MI and regime officials, and to the purge of the then-SPDC PM and Military Intelligence Chief Gen Khin Nyunt. The purge was reportedly part of a bigger struggle between MI officers and Tatmadaw commanders vying for control of the lucrative border trade with China. On 7 February 2005, Myint Hlaing orchestrated the arrest of several prominent Shan leaders in the build up to the regime’s constitution-drafting National Convention. Regime authorities arrested Shan State Peace Council President Maj Gen Sao Hso Ten, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) Chairman Hkun Hton Oo, and the SNLD General-Secretary Nyunt on charges of treason and defamation of the state. During his tenure as Tatmadaw Northeastern Regional Command Commander, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) leaders accused Myint Hlaing of allowing soldiers under his command to use excessive violence. In August 2005, the body of a KIA administrative officer was found with three bullet wounds, fractures to his skull and ribs, and with both wrists torn away. In January 2006, Tatmadaw soldiers under Myint Hlaing’s command shot dead and cremated five KIA soldiers and one civilian who had tried to offer the soldiers drinks.

Myint Hlaing also had a reputation of being involved in the drugs trade due to his close association with a number of drug lords active in Northern Shan State, including the notorious Kyaw Myint, leader of the Panhsay militia in Namkham Township.

During Myint Hlaing’s tenure as Air Defense Chief, he traveled internationally to strengthen the regime’s military relations with various governments, including Russia and North Korea. In October 2007, he traveled to Russia to discuss the potential purchase of a missile system to modernize Burma’s air defenses. In November 2008, Myint Hlaing accompanied then-Tatmadaw Joint Chief of Staff Gen Shwe Mann on a visit to North Korea where the SPDC delegation secured North Korea’s assistance to build military facilities and to provide air defense training for the regime.

As Agriculture and Irrigation Minister in President Thein Sein’s cabinet, Myint Hlaing was responsible for the drafting of the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law. The law allows the regime to label farmland as ‘vacant, fallow and virgin land’ and to reallocate it to domestic and foreign investors for the development of industrial agricultural estates. Activists warned that the law would result in increased land confiscation because very few farmers owned the official certificates to claim their land use rights.

 
Myat Hein 
Communications and Information Technology Minister
Date of Birth: 27 April 1955
Myat Hein is a former General who served in the Air Force for over 30 years. On 13 February 2013, President Thein Sein appointed Myat Hein as Communications and Information Technology Minister. Myat Hein replaced Thein Htun, who resigned following allegations of corruption. Myat Hein was on the EU blacklist from October 2002 to May 2012.

Born in Pegu Division, Myat Hein graduated in 1975 from the 17th intake of the Defense Services Academy, in Maymyo, Mandalay Division. He also attended the Defence Services Command and General Staff College in Kalaw Township, Shan State, and the National Defense College in Naypyidaw. Between 1978 and 1998, Myat Hein attended Air Force pilot training schools in Meikhtila, Mandalay Division, and in Rangoon’s Mingaladon Township, learning to fly surveillance, bomber, and fighter aircraft. In 1990 and 1992, Myat Hein attended pilot training courses for F-7 fighter jets in China.

In 2001, Myat Hein became Air Force Chief of Staff. On 18 May 2002, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Chairman Sr Gen Than Shwe appointed him as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force. In that capacity, Myat Hein attended high-level meetings with officials from India, Bangladesh, and China to discuss bilateral relations and mutual cooperation. Under Myat Hein’s tenure, poor aircraft maintenance and out-of-date equipment led to several Air Force fighter jet crashes. As a result, Myat Hein negotiated with Russia, China, and India to upgrade the Air Force fleet. In 2009, the Air Force purchased 20 MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia worth US$570 million. In 2010, it acquired 50 K-8 aircraft from China, suited to both training and counter-insurgency purposes. In 2005, the Air Force also ordered two light transport planes from India.

Myat Hein played an important role in the regime’s military offensives in Shan and Kachin States. In mid-July 2011, in preparation for a major attack on the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) headquarters in Wanhai, Kyethi Township, the Air Force used two MiG 29 fighter jets for reconnaissance missions. In December 2012 and January 2013, the Air Force used Chinese-made K-8 fighter jets to assist Tatmadaw troops in military operations against Kachin Independence Army (KIA) positions in Lajayang, Momauk Township, Kachin State.

 
Kyaw Hsan 
Cooperatives Minister
Date of Birth: 20 May 1948
Kyaw Hsan is a former Brigadier General who served as Information Minister under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) from September 2002 to March 2011. He maintained that position under President Thein Sein until August 2012, when Thein Sein reassigned him as Cooperatives Minister. Kyaw Hsan was also Culture Minister between February 2011 and August 2012. Kyaw Hsan was elected as the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) MP for Pale Township, Sagaing Division, in the 2010 elections. He was on the EU blacklist between October 2002 and May 2012.

Born in Monywa, Sagaing Division, Kyaw Hsan graduated from the 11th intake of the Defense Services Academy in 1969. He also attended military intelligence classes at the Military Staff College in Kalaw, Shan State. After graduating from the Defense Services Academy, Kyaw Hsan served as a battalion and division commander in Shan State under former SPDC Vice Chairman Vice Sr Gen Maung Aye. He was considered a close associate of SPDC Chairman Sr Gen Than Shwe.

Kyaw Hsan was a prominent member of the SPDC-backed mass organization Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) in Sagaing Division before becoming Information Minister. Human rights activists accused him of playing a key role in the planning of the 30 May 2003 Depayin massacre.

As SPDC Information Minister, Kyaw Hsan played a crucial role in censoring the media and. severely limiting the work of foreign journalists in Burma. In August 2011, he became the Chairman of the Government Spokespersons and Information Team, a team of SPDC cabinet ministers responsible for publishing propaganda for the military junta.

Kyaw Hsan repeatedly defended the regime against UN criticism. In November 2007, Kyaw Hsan said the regime would not be pressured into undertaking democratic reforms, and suggested that then-UN Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari was ignorant of Burma’s history. In March 2008, he accused Gambari of “bias” and of “act[ing] outside [his] role as mediator” by releasing a statement from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during her house arrest.

In November 2011, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Kyaw Hsan reiterated the regime’s propaganda. He denied the existence of political prisoners in Burma and said that the 2010 election had been free and fair. He said that under President Thein Sein’s rule media had the freedom “to write whatever they think is for the interest of the public.” He also rejected allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Tatmadaw against civilians in ethnic areas, claiming that there was “no intentional human rights violations by the Tatmadaw.” In addition, he claimed that gas pipeline development projects were being carried out with the participation of local communities and that the projects enhanced people’s livelihoods.

 
Aung Min 
President’s Office Minister
Date of Birth: 20 November 1949
Aung Min is a former Major General who served as Rail Transportation Minister under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) from February 2003 to March 2011. He maintained that position until August 2012, when President Thein Sein appointed him as President’s Office Minister. Aung Min was elected as the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) MP for Taungoo Township, Pegu Division, in the November 2010 elections. He was on the EU blacklist from February 2003 to April 2012.

Born in Rangoon, Aung Min graduated from the 13th intake of the Defence Services Academy in 1971. He began his career as a military intelligence officer and in 1983 was transferred to the infantry. In the early 1990s, Aung Min was an officer of Light Infantry Division (LID) 44 based in Thaton, Mon State. In 2001, he became commander of LID 66 based in Prome, Pegu Division. From December 2001 to February 2003, Aung Min was Commander of the Tatmadaw’s Southern Regional Military Command in Taungoo Township, Pegu Division. He resigned from the military in April 2010 to contest the general election.

Aung Min is a close friend of President Thein Sein. Along with Soe Thein, Hla Tun, and Tin Naing Thein, he is part of a core group of loyalists that Thein Sein appointed to the President’s Office in August 2012 to handle key dossiers such as national reconciliation and economic reforms.

Aung Min is also the regime’s chief peace negotiator and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC), a committee that President Thein Sein established in July 2012 to hold peace talks with the ethnic armed groups. Aung Min took over from Aung Thaung as the main regime negotiator in the peace talks between Naypyidaw and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) following Aung Thaung’s failure to reach any form of agreement with the KIO despite several rounds of talks between December 2011 and May 2012. Aung Min described himself as the “minister without borders” as a result of his travels to Burma’s neighboring countries to hold talks with ethnic groups and exiled pro-democracy organizations. He negotiated preliminary peace deals with six ethnic armed groups, including the Karen National Union, the Shan State Army-South, and the Karenni National Progressive Party.

On various occasions, Aung Min represented the regime in the international arena. He has attended high-level meetings and important ceremonies in Switzerland and Norway in April 2012, the US in September 2012 and April 2013, and the UK in April 2013.
Aung Min has angered activists for publicly defending the Tatmadaw’s offensives in Kachin State as well as the Monywa copper mine project in Sagaing Division. In September 2012, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Aung Min said that it was “impossible” that Tatmadaw soldiers disobeyed President Thein Sein’s orders to cease military operations against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). In November 2012, Aung Min called on activists to stop campaigning for the closure of the Monywa copper mine, a joint venture between China’s Wanbao mining company and the military conglomerate Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH). He told activists that Beijing had given a lot of help to Burma in the past and that people should show respect and gratitude towards China.

 
Soe Thein
President’s Office Minister
 
Soe Thein is a former Lieutenant General who served as Industry Minister under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) from June 2008 to March 2011. He maintained that position under President Thein Sein until August 2012, when Thein Sein appointed him as President’s Office Minister. He was elected as Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) MP in Kyunsu Township, Tenasserim Division, in the 2010 elections. Soe Thein is the chairman of the regime-appointed political prisoner review committee and a member of the regime’s anti-corruption board. He was on the EU blacklist from October 2002 to April 2012.

Born in Rangoon, Soe Thein was a graduate of the 11th intake of the Defence Services Academy in Maymyo, Mandalay Division. In March 2002, SPDC Chairman Sr Gen Than Shwe appointed him as Navy Commander-in-Chief, a position he held until June 2008. As Navy Commander-in-Chief, Soe Thein visited India in April 2007 to discuss military assistance in return for cooperation in fighting anti-India armed groups operating from Burmese territory along the Indo-Burma border. In June 2008, Than Shwe relieved Soe Thein of his position of Navy Commander-in-Chief and appointed him as Industry Minister. Soe Thein’s removal as Navy Commander-in-Chief was due to the SPDC’s disappointment over the Navy’s failure to respond to the presence of American and French warships off the coast of Burma after cyclone Nargis.

During his tenure as SPDC Industry Minister, Soe Thein played a key role in selling off numerous state-owned companies and assets as part of the junta’s privatization plan. Many companies and assets were sold to regime cronies.

In June 2011, President Thein Sein appointed Soe Thein as Chairman of the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), a body responsible for approving foreign investment and joint venture proposals. Accusations of corruption and lack of transparency characterized Soe Thein’s tenure as MIC Chairman. In May 2013, President Thein Sein replaced Soe Thein with regime Finance Minister Win Shien as MIC Chairman.

Soe Thein represented the regime in the international arena on various occasions. In October 2012, he traveled to New York to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as officials from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

 
Cmdre Aung Thaw
Deputy Defense Minister
 
President Thein Sein appointed Aung Thaw as Deputy Defense Minister on 30 March 2011. Aung Thaw is the Joint Secretary-2 of the Working Group on the Joint Strategy for the Elimination of Forced Labor, set up by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the regime in March 2012.

In 2002, he was Commander of Danyawaddy Naval Regional Command headquarters based in Akyab, Arakan State. In 2008, he was the military attaché at the Burmese embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

On 8 August 2012, Aung Thaw said that peace could not be achieved with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) due to the KIA’s insistence on political dialogue before a ceasefire. On 6 September 2012, in response to a question by a National Assembly MP on the ceasefire talks with the KIA, Aung Thaw claimed that Tatmadaw troops never attacked the KIA after Thein Sein ordered a halt to all offensives against the ethnic armed group on 10 December 2011.

As regime Deputy Defense Minister, Aung Thaw attended meetings with numerous foreign high-ranking officials, including: Vietnam’s Deputy Defense Minister (June 2011); Laos Deputy Defense Minister (July 2011); Indonesia’s Deputy Defense Minister (October 2011); US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (February 2012); Thailand’s Permanent Secretary for Defense (March 2012); and China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Deputy Chief of General Staff (September 2012).

On 30 March 2012, he attended a meeting between a Russian delegation led by Victor Ivanov, Director of the Federal Drug Control Service and then-regime Defense Minister Lt Gen Hla Min. They discussed the role of the military in the eradication of narcotics and further cooperation between the two armies.

 
 
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