Military members of the Burmese Parliament on Monday nominated Rangoon Region Chief Minister Myint Swe as the country's new vice president to succeed hardliner Tin Aung Myint Oo who resigned for health reason.
Former Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo was a hardliner, and a new vice president offers reformist President Thein Sein a chance to make his top leaders more supportive of his agenda, say observers.
Myint Swe's nomination will be seen by many observers as the nomination of a former general who was a key ally of former Snr-Gen. Than Shwe. His nomination must be approved by Parliament, but as a prominent member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, he would easily achieve a clear majority of votes. Opposition forces represent a tiny fraction of Parliament. The Burmese Constitution allows the government-appointed military MPs to nominate one of two vice presidents.
Myint Swe is an experienced member of the president's current government and his appointment could be seen as furthering the policies of the current administration. That remains to be seen. A nomination of a serving military hardliner would have been interpreted as a clear weakening of the reformist credentials of the government. A former lieutenant-general, Myint Swe was born on May 24, 1951. He is an ethnic Mon. He graduated from the Defence Services Academy in 1971 as part of the 15th intake.
During the military regime, he was known to be personally close to Snr-Gen Than Shwe, a factor linked to his success in the military. Myint Swe was reportedly close to Than Shwe and his wife during his rise to the top. His promotion to head of Military Intelligence following the purge of Khin Nyunt is an indication of the trust placed in him by Than Shwe. In early 2006, Myint Swe launched a campaign to track down citizens who were giving the international media information, targeting businessmen, civil servants, activists and local journalists. Recently, he has been a frequent critic of the Rangoon press.
Meanwhile, Thein Sein announced a cabinet reshuffle of six deputy ministers on Monday.
A statement from his office said Thant Shin was reassigned to the Ministry of the President's Office-1; Chan Maung to the Ministry of Rail Transportation; Win Shein to the Ministry of Finance and Revenue; Han Sein to the Ministry of Transport; Win Than to the Ministry of Communications, Post and Telegraphs; and Dr. Myo Myint to the Ministry of Education.
Last week, observers said a reshuffle might also include eliminating or combining some ministries.
Of the cabinet changes, Saw Hla Tun, a member of the Lower House, said, “It’s not related to any factional struggle or ideological struggle – it’s purely about performance and trying to make sure the president’s agenda is carried forward as effectively as possible.”
Last week, Mizzima reported a cabinet reshuffle would coincide with Thein Sein’s “Second Wave” of reforms in the country.
“He needs to make the cabinet more vibrant and effective, and he has to remove some conservatives who are reluctant to accept his reforms,” one lawmaker, who declined to be identified, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.
Under parliamentary procedures, the vice presidential candidate was chosen by non-elected, government-appointed armed forces MPs, who make up 25 per cent of the Parliament.
Burmese lawmaker Aye Maung of the ethnic minority Rakhine National Development Party told Voice of America on Wednesday that he hopes the next vice president will be a reformist, whoever he is.
“We hope that the army will nominate the kind of person who can go along with the current president’s reform strategy and can work in cooperation with the parliamentarians and also be acceptable to the people,” he said.