An announcement in state media on Thursday that Lt-Gen Wai Lwin, an actively serving member of Burma’s armed forces, has been appointed to the Rangoon Division legislature has fueled speculation that he is set to replace vice-presidential nominee Lt-Gen Myint Swe as chief minister.
Wai Lwin is a former deputy commander of the Rangoon Regional Command and commander of the Naypyidaw Regional Command. He will replace a lower-ranking military appointee to the Rangoon Parliament, Capt Lin Lin Kyaw.
The move is seen by some observers as preparation for plans to replace the current chief minister of Rangoon Division, Myint Swe, who was nominated by military appointees in Burma’s Union Parliament on Tuesday to replace former general Tin Aung Myint Oo as vice-president.
It also comes as Burma’s president, former general Thein Sein, insisted again in an interview with Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper on Tuesday that the army is “not involved in any way in the direct affairs of government or government policy.”
Myint Swe is seen as hardliner who served as a General Staff Officer under former junta leaders Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Vice-Snr-Gen Maung Aye. He was later promoted to brigadier-general and appointed commander of the Southeast Regional Command, before becoming head of the Bureau of Special Operations-5, which oversees security in Rangoon. In this last position, he played a major role in suppressing the monk-led Saffron Revolution in 2007.
Like Myint Swe, Wai Lwin is widely regarded as close to Than Shwe, who ruled Burma for nearly two decades until retiring last year and handing over power to a quasi-civilian government dominated by ex-generals.
Tin Aung Myint Oo’s resignation for health reasons earlier this month came amid expectations of a reshuffle of Thein Sein’s government. The shakeup continued on Monday, when the Ministry of Home Affairs announced plans to reassign deputy ministers in the finance, railways, education, transport and communications ministries, as well as the Ministry of the President’s Office.
Despite the reshuffle, however, critics say that the appointments of Myint Swe and Wai Lwin are evidence of the continuing influence of Than Shwe.