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Myanmar Junta Wants Civil Servants to Have Fun

Junta-appointed Minister of Health Dr. Thet Khaing Win at a lunch for health ministry staff.

Myanmar’s military regime has launched a campaign aimed at creating fun working places for civil servants. With the state of emergency ending in around two months, the junta needs to show the Myanmar people, or government employees at least, that its administrative mechanism is running smoothly and that civil servants are content.

Since early November ministries have been hosting team-building lunches for their employees, with the Ministry of Information visiting each government office to entertain staff with music and dance.

The military regime, which is still struggling to run the country nearly two years after the coup, said such activities are intended to boost the morale of employees, make them feel like part of a big family, and refresh them.

“[The regime] wants to give the impression that staff are working happily together. [The activities] are also intended to mobilize the support of employees,” said one Naypyitaw civil servant.

In fact, the regime is struggling to replace the civil servants on strike as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement. The junta has been forced to relax the eligibility criteria for government employees and has recruited outsiders to fill the positions of 60 deputy railway station masters, after the train system was paralyzed by strikes. It has also been forced to bring in Myanmar military medics to replace striking doctors and nurses in public hospitals.

Since October the regime has advertised nearly 4,000 job openings in various ministries, with some positions open to those who have only completed primary education. The junta has also kept the door open for striking civil servants to return to work, said the Naypyitaw government worker.

Team-building lunches are joined by junta-appointed ministers, while artists such as Moe Yan Zun, a son of the pro-regime politician U Kyaw Zeya, participate in entertainments organized by the junta’s information ministry. Lieutenant-Colonel U Kyaw Zeya is a former member of the National League for Democracy, but contested the 2020 general election for the People’s Pioneer Party.

Moe Yan Zun is a regular actor in pro-military propaganda films, and has often appeared at the rallies of the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party.

So far shows have been organized at a number of ministries including foreign affairs, health, legal affairs and the office of the Union Attorney-General. Some ministers have even brought their families to enjoy the performances.

“It is also possible that these activities are being done with the [proposed 2023] election in mind. They [the junta] are trying to win the support [of government employees]. They never did such things before,” a legal affairs civil servant close to retirement told The Irrawaddy.

In July, the regime said that it would provide monthly allowances for permanent government employees to pay their rent. Many senior civil servants received awards when junta boss Min Aung Hlaing handed out titles and medals on November 17 to mark the country’s National Day.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and wife Daw Kyu Kyu Hla enjoy a November 26 show marking next year’s anniversary of Independence Day.

The state of emergency is set to end in February 2023 and an election will have to be held within the following six months, according to the military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

Military units have also been ordered to hold dinner parties for soldiers and their families since last year in an effort to retain personnel.

A live variety show is also being broadcast on regime mouthpiece Myawaddy TV and other junta broadcasters to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Independence Day on January 4 next year.