Will Reshuffle Embolden Thein Sein’s Reform Agenda?

Burmese President Thein Sein and ministers at the Presidential Palace in Naypyidaw on April 30. (Photo: Reuters)

President Thein Sein has just announced a long-awaited reshuffle of ministers in his cabinet. As many anticipated those in charge of the ministries of information, industry and national planning and economic development were moved.

Thein Sein shifted four ministers—Aung Min, Soe Thein, Tin Naing Thein and Hla Tun—to positions attached to the President’s Office. This will no doubt strengthen his reform agenda, many analysts in Rangoon and Naypyidaw have speculated.

Outgoing Railways Minister Aung Min and outgoing Industry Minister Soe Thein are known to be firm backers of the president and he will want to keep them close. They both considered “reform-minded ministers” who previously served in the armed forces before joining the quasi-civilian government.

Aung Min has been leading peace missions to ethnic regions. With his new post attached to the President’s Office, he will be given more power to handle ethnic affairs and peace building programs. They both have been seen meeting and mingling with dissidents and ethnic insurgency groups.

This reshuffle is the biggest governmental shake-up since Thein Sein came into power. The move also comes after the appointment of new Vice-President Nyan Htun who previously served as navy chief.

In May, Tin Aung Myint Oo, the former vice-president who was known to be a hardliner, abruptly resigned citing health reasons. It took several months to select a replacement and many expected the reshuffle would come soon after this key matter was finally resolved.

Thein Sein changed nine of his 29 cabinet posts. Information and Culture Minister Kyaw Hsan has been removed and will now run the Cooperatives Ministry. Observers believe this ministry will eventually be abolished.

Known to be Burma’s “Comical Ali” in reference to the Iraqi propaganda chief during the 2003 US-led invasion, Kyaw Hsan was known as a hardliner in the government. Moreover, Naypyidaw insiders believe that several ministers were implicated in large-scale corruption scandals—siphoning and abusing state funds for government projects—and Thein Sein had been informed about several cases. It is still unknown whether any action will be taken against those allegedly involved.

Aung Kyi, outgoing Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, will become the new head of the Information Ministry. He once served as a liaison between the government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It is still unknown how Burma’s new censorship policy will be implemented under his leadership as the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division remains operational.

Strong speculation about a possible government reshuffle has circulated for several months. Fearing being removed, some ministers actively practiced magical voodoo or yadaya rites in order to bring good fortune or delay the changes.

Many critics think that reform in Burma has been unnecessarily slow in recent months with little progress as implementation at ministry levels has not been coming forward. Several ministers were known to have resisted the reform process and it seems Thein Sein made up his mind to remove them and instead promote several figures who were closer to him.

Thein Sein repeatedly warned in his recent speeches that he would leave behind “conservatives” who are against reform.

The government also appointed 15 new deputy ministers—some of which are civilian scholars and technocratsin respected fields. In the past, the regime usually appointed ex-army officers to serve in civilian posts and ministries.

This cabinet reshuffle has been long anticipated and has received many plaudits from ordinary Burmese people and political observers. Thein Sein has no doubt strengthened his position but we must wait to see if the pace of reform maintains momentum as a consequence.

14 Responses to Will Reshuffle Embolden Thein Sein’s Reform Agenda?

  1. The role played by Mr Thein Sein is of good man. The bad man is out going Tin Aung Myint Oo and his friends of mercenary soldiers-of-fortune.
    In the middle is varieties of players.
    The play was carefully orchestrated by Gen. Than Shwe. He had instructed the supreme bad guy, Gen Min Aung Hlaing to stage the miliatry coup if the game does not play according to his plan.
    As the time goes on, human nature of adaptation plays the major roles. The good guys assume the good work for the country. The bad guy will always go against the good guys. The role play is well understood product of human nature.
    We all should nurture and encourage the role played by Mr. Thein Sein.
    Bravo Thein Sein.

  2. A Burmese Freedom Fighter

    The news of ministers reshuffle sounds exciting and gives a hope that Burmese people can believe in, and the new birth of positive attitude 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 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

  3. President U Thein Sein is more intelligent and wise person than what we thought and see from outside.
    We need to patient and be careful not too rush about changing in Burma.
    President U Thein Sein is handling smoothly on hardliners. I hope eventually some of them will be gone by next year.
    Don’t forget about President U Thein Sein doesn’t have 100% authority in Government now he lead.
    Above the his Government, the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) is watching every step he takes especially by Army Chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing and ex dictatorship Than Shwe. I believe ex dictatorship Than Shwe is still controlling Army from distant.
    We have been waiting and fighting for half century to change in Burma. Why not patient a few more years?

  4. Except U Aing Min, the rest of ministers may not help Thein Sein effectively. U Aung Kyi did not do much in the past and Kyaw Hsan is the one the people will not follow his steps. Reshuffle must be done for changes but so far Thein Sein still is surrounded by idiots.

  5. Good job! Way to go!

  6. If Coopperative Ministry will eventually be abolished, then every dopositors have to be very carefully known that, CB Bank will soon be abolished also, therefore, those whom they have accounts with CB bank,
    I think it’s time to withdraw back their money and close their account as soon as posible.

  7. Did Thein Sein find out that these ousted ministers have too much wealth beyond their legal income that they could bring shame on his administration? Asset reports demanded by Thein Sein might have to do with this reshuffle.

  8. Good attempt to improve game plan with reshuffles of players.Congratulations !!!,but we need to see results pronto!!!.Few hotspots( Rakhine and Kachin) needs immediate attention.Rakhine must be handled with extreme care with high quality diplomatic skills.Do not entrust this nationally vital and intricate problem in the hands of unskilled corrupted and incompetent people who were essentially responsible for uncontrolled influx of Illlegal immigrants.If not properly and effectively resolved,Rakhine ethnic conflict can become a smothering running sore for a long long time.Do not expect the Internationl Community come with any concrete solutions.These Begali illegals will stay put and grow in numbers.If you ghettorize them,it canturn into festering and fetile grounds of extremism.Try to learn hard lessons from the current and past histories of conflicts that torn apart many nations along religious and ethnic fault lines.Rakhine is sitting on this volitile fault line I am afraid.Kachin question on the other hand, is an internal problem,therefore can be resolved if all sides are sinc to work together.We wish President’s new team well and successful results.Time is not in their favour.If President adhered to his planned departure from politics,then this new team is very severelt short ot time.Either he changed his mind to continue his term fo office for another five years or we could elect another similar or better,we may face leadership crisis.Therefore,President’s all inclusiveness team to solve intractable problems challenging the nation is a well-come out-box approach.We,the people Myanmar ,wish and long for to see more formation of ” TEAM OF RIVALS” composed of talented people from across sections of the entire country.

  9. U Kyaw Hsan as Cooperative Minister, — there was a 1 million $ US corruption case at the New Light of Myanmar early this year. There was always big corruption at the COOP Ministry and the CB Bank was often in the middle. Just check what happens with the Bagan Hotel Old Bagan how these people from COOP Nyaung Oo as well in the Ministry sheeted even the old Minister to bring this top prime position Hotel for near to nothing into the CB Bank hands… Until end 2007 the COOP Ministry did not pay Salary tax to the Government and corrupted people up to COOP – DG level as well COOP Nyaung Oo still keep illegal big money which was already instructed by Minister Tin Htut before 2010 to pay to the right owner of the money. People in central Myanmar call the COOP staff the thieves of Myanmar since marsalla party time before 1988. CB Bank also moved several month ago over 50 million $ US in Kyat to another Bank in Myanmar out of certain fear. Will see how Kyaw Hsan feel in these circles.
    What will be with all the corrupted cases of COOP Ministry if it does no9t exist anymore, will than just one or some own it,— there was or is still another dirty trick running about this Bagan Hotel purchase by using oldest rates of Ne Win Government. Check it out – despite all is in the mnid of the Kings Palace of Old Bagan how anyhow can a private person or a company / bank nown the ancient Kings Palace site…. Or do we follow Cambodia and Hun Sens ways of working ???

  10. The report above missed out that several Minister positions are vacant now,- and it strongest to hope that U Thein Sein chooses people which have the best experience in both on the job as well dealing with the grown institutions of the past 30 years — specially for Tourism which Minister position is vacant now and should not get any newcomer and training on the job anymore for this quick growing industry. The job done in the last 14 month s saw next to some good Ideas of the now only Sports Minister a lot of trouble within at any levels and fights between industry players which never happened before. Good thought issues as Hotel Star rating was deluted by mostly bad and unfair judgment if one compares a Royal Kumudra and an Central or Asia Plaza in Yangon all have three stars , but Kumudra sure much higher in excellence. Illegal breach of Hotel Contracts over a year in Yangon were not actioned by the Ministry and created a very unpleasant and bad image of Myanmar.
    Hope that a man which knows the Job best, works according to UN s sustainable Touirsm, knows the Ministrt Machine best and is best known and liked by the Tourism Industry,– please no more newcomer to the Tourism Industry of Myanmar, there is no time for another year of experiements. A man which represent Myanmar Tourism at best also internationally.

  11. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Playing the game under the same rules (Nargis constitution) with the same players (hand picked by Than Shwe) and at his table – parliament – as well would hold no water folks.
    Specifically, without scrapping Than Shwe’s constitution the outcome of the game would be no better than the last trust me.
    Today’s gimmick is only a trick to hoodwink the public in the first place as evidenced.
    Shuffling the deck only would serve none lest you guys forget as well.
    Hence, change the rules, game and the players as well for that matter and for the better I say!

  12. General Ne Win took 242 Parliamentarian into Custody including Prime Minister U Nu and also The President. (1962)
    How many are alive?
    U Raschid, U Nu passed away, U Khin Mg Latt may be dead too!
    “Never in The History of The World Parliamentarian taken into Custody!”
    The Picture Speaks A Thousand!
    All are At Ease!
    Are They All Soldiers In Coloured Longyi To Show Their Ranks, as
    in Korean History, The Colour Showed Their Ranks and Position.
    The 195 Naypyidaw Parliamentarian are all Soldiers in MUFTI?
    What say you World Jury?

  13. I do not see friendliness in the picture. I just see dictatorship style relationship here in the picture. No one is smiling and no one seems happy.

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