The Leaderboard: U Thaung Tun

Why is he in the news?

U Thaung Tun was appointed Myanmar’s national security advisor on January 10. The new post created by the President’s Office was established, “to advise the president and the Union Government on internal and external threats by assessing situations from a strategic point of view.” The creation of the new post is seen as a move to counter rising international scrutiny following the increased violence in Rakhine, Shan, and Kachin states.

U Thaung Tun of Myanmar, left, during his time as Ambassador to the European Commission. Source: Copyright held by European Commission.

Who is he?

U Thaung Tun has enjoyed a long diplomatic career, beginning in 1972. U Thaung Tun served as ambassador to the Philippines from 2005 to 2008, and as ambassador to Belgium, the Netherlands, and the European Union from 2008 to 2010. Prior to his ambassadorial posts, U Thaung Tun was the director-general for political affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Since retiring from the Foreign Ministry in 2010, U Thaung Tun has served at the Myanmar Institute for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank tied to the Foreign Ministry; worked with the National Commission for Environmental Affairs; and acted as an adviser to Shell Myanmar.

U Thaung Tun spent time in Washington, D.C. as a Fulbright Scholar, studying at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University from 1984 to 1985 and previously earned a bachelor’s degree from Yangon University.

What can we expect from him?

The scope of the national security advisor position is still vaguely defined and the implications of U Thaung Tun’s appointment are still unclear. Clarifications from the President’s Office confirm that the new post is not under the authority of any current government structure and it appears that it will carry the same status as a minister. How the new post will work with the military-dominated National Defense and Security Council is unclear. It appears the military was not consulted in the creation of the national security advisor post. However, U Thaung Tun’s prior experience in various diplomatic and civil service roles could make him well suited for his new job.

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