Burma Vice-President Enters Monkhood

By The Irrawaddy 17 May 2012

Tin Aung Myint Oo, one of Burma’s two vice-presidents and strong ally of ex-junta chief Than Shwe, has entered the Buddhist monkhood, a move that would seem to confirm reports that he has stepped down from the government.

According to Rangoon-based journalists and government officials, Tin Aung Myint Oo became a monk on May 3 when he entered into a monastery in Hmawbi Township in Rangoon. No official statement was released by the government, though rumors have circulated in Naypyidaw that he was resigning due to throat cancer.

A journalist in the former Burmese capital told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that Tin Aung Myint Oo has no intention of returning to the Cabinet whether or not the president accepts his resignation.

Two Burmese government officials were quoted by Agence France-Presse on Wednesday as saying that the vice-president had joined the monkhood, but they could not say how long he would serve as a monk.

Tin Aung Myint Oo was notably absent recently during a ministerial meeting in Naypyidaw. His absence signaled to many observers that he had left his post.

An image released on the President’s Office website last Friday showed President Thein Sein holding a meeting with his Cabinet, but Tin Aung Myint Oo, who normally sits next to the head of state, was conspicuously absent. By contrast, Sai Mauk Kham, the country’s other vice-president, was shown sat at his usual place.

According to sources in Naypyidaw, Tin Aung Myint Oo also failed to turn up at another regular meeting after being summoned by the president’s office.

Although there has been no confirmation of reports that the vice-president  resigned earlier this month, the sources said his wife came to his office last week to collect his belongings and files from his desk. Several high-ranking officials were said to be upset with his abrupt disappearance and his failure to formally submit his resignation.

Observers said that his resignation might open space for reformist elements within the government and strengthen Thein Sein’s policy of political reform.

Tin Aung Myint Oo was one of the most powerful opponents of reform in Naypyidaw and was widely regarded as a key figure in the government’s hardline faction.

There have been persistent reports since 2011 that Thein Sein and Tin Aung Myint Oo were on bad terms. It is believed the clash may have had as much to do with personality differences as any power struggle—Thein Sein is widely regarded as the least corrupt of the ex-junta leaders.

The president told a coordinating meeting last Friday that “conservatives who do not have a reformist mindset will be left behind” while the country is on its path to change.