Burmese President Announces Cabinet Reshuffle

Members of Burma's new government swear in during the final session of Burma's Union Parliament in Naypyidaw on March 30, 2011. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Members of Burma’s new government swear in during the final session of Burma’s Union Parliament in Naypyidaw on March 30, 2011. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON—Burma’s president announced a major cabinet reshuffle on Monday, a move analysts see as advancing the once-pariah nation’s reformist agenda.

The shake-up is the biggest since President Thein Sein’s government took office from the former military junta in March 2011 and launched a wave of dramatic reforms that have surprised the world and prompted Western powers to ease crippling sanctions.

Rumors have swirled for months about a possible reshuffle.

The announcement made late on Monday on the president’s official website said the overhaul affects nine of several dozen cabinet posts. Some 15 new deputy ministers are also being appointed.

Among the most prominent changes is the replacement of former Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, widely seen as a hardliner. He was replaced by Labor and Social Welfare Minister Aung Kyi, who has also acted as a liaison between the government and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Information Ministry oversees local and foreign media and the film industry, and has supervised the approval of visas for foreign correspondents. Kyaw Hsan was kept in government, however, and appointed to head the Cooperatives Ministry.

The presidential statement did not name all of the new ministers, but said several outgoing ministers—most considered reformists—would be moved to four new ministerial-level posts in the president’s office. They include the ministers of finance, national planning and economic development, and Railways Minister Aung Min, who has played a key role in negotiating cease-fires with ethnic rebel groups.

Thant Myint-U, a historian from Burma and grandson of the late UN Secretary-General U Thant, said in a tweet that the reshuffle is “unquestionably a strengthening of President U Thein Sein’s reformist agenda, with top academics, technocrats brought into [the] cabinet.”

Thein Sein has said in recent comments that he would leave behind anyone who is against reform.

Earlier this month, military representatives in parliament appointed the country’s politically moderate naval chief as one of the nation’s two vice presidents. Vice Admiral Nyan Tun replaced the known hardliner Tin Aung Myint Oo who resigned citing health reasons.

Over the last year, Thein Sein’s government has spearheaded unprecedented change in Burma, relaxing decades of harsh rule and allowing freedoms previously unheard of in the Southeast Asian nation. Media censorship has eased dramatically, the government has signed ceasefire deals with multiple armed insurgent groups, and crucial investment laws are being rewritten.

But major challenges remain. Rights groups say the rule of law is weak, corruption is strong and fighting continues in the north between ethnic Kachin rebels and government forces.

5 Responses to Burmese President Announces Cabinet Reshuffle

  1. First of all, why does Thein Sein keep Kyaw Hsan and Co-operative ministry? The Union of Myanmar never needs Kyaw Hsan and Co-operative Ministry. Reform? What kind of reform Thein Sein is talking about? Switching around the same men in his administration will not bring the real change nor reform. Thein Sein must bring in the ones who really know how to build a Democratic Nation. Not these people with Than Shwe’s ideology.

    • Do you think Burma will be fixed if ASSK is put in the position of president? The level of corruption in the lower ranking officials, right down to civilians will still prevail. What you don’t realize is that significant number of government officials still wish to go back to the old days of generals raping all the riches of the country. There may even be a coup attempt against the president if he is not careful. Reforms can’t be achieved in one day. It will take time. You can’t replaced the old cronies swiftly. Their connections and power extend throughout many layers – such as the business communities, legal authorities, etc.

  2. Illusion – just smoke and mirrors!

  3. President Thein Sein still has to keep Kyaw Hsan in his cabinet means that there is a strong man behind the screen. He cannot makes against him ( the big Boss ). Any way the time is approaching slowly for President Thein Sein to win within the ruling party. Any way Burmese military is most important in any changes. Now Burmese military is looking to westernize their weaponry system, so very recently Burmese military chief met with US Ambassador to Burma. I he really wants to make reform during his tenure, he should have taken step of making peace with all ethnic group rather than fighting especially with Kachin. Why not join with Daw ASSK and call kachin leaders on the table and solve the problems? War is making money and also spending money, but require to stop forthe sake of the country future development. All ethnics areas shall get peace including A

  4. A Burmese Freedom Fighter

    The news of ministers reshuffle sounds exciting that gives a positive hope that Burma is trying its best toward democratization. The hard reality on the ground with awaiting immediate challenges: armed-conflicts between government forces and ethnic groups, communal riots in Rakhine State and the battle of check and balance of government functionality between the administration and parliament, don’t seem to be as sound as cabinet reshuffle itself.

    But, it is quite important to maintain uplifted-mind set of changes being escalated one step at a time and keep moving toward its destination of rebuilding democratic society. The success normally takes place when in the mode of positive attitude and hope we can believe in. Keep the hope alive.

    A Burmese Freedom Fighter

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