Myanmar Defense Minister Tipped to Become VP in New Govt

By Htet Naing Zaw 27 November 2020

Myanmar Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sein Win is tipped to become vice president in the new National League for Democracy-led government, according to several government and military sources in Naypyitaw.

Born in Pyin Oo Lwin (also known as May Myo) in Mandalay Region, Lt-Gen Sein Win joined the army after graduating from Yangon University. He attended Officer Training School (OTS) Intake 54 and eventually served as chief of staff at the Bureau of Air Defense. He was appointed defense minister in 2015.

Considered honest and reliable, he is widely respected both within the army and by the public. More importantly, thanks to his congenial personality and professional approach he has developed a stable working relationship with the civilian government in his capacity as defense minister.

The Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) is reserved 25 per cent of the seats in the Union Parliament and can nominate a vice president to serve in the government.

Many informed sources in Naypyitaw and Yangon said Lt-Gen Sein Win is considered the most suitable choice to be nominated as the military’s choice for vice president.

Under the NLD government the military in 2016 nominated former Lt-Gen U Myint Swe to be vice president. For the new cabinet in April next year, the military could either renominate incumbent Vice President U Myint Swe or nominate Lt-Gen Sein Win as a new vice president. The military nominated different persons in 2011 and 2016.

A graduate of the 15th intake of the Defense Services Academy (DSA) in 1971, U Myint Swe, an ethnic Mon, rose steadily through the ranks to become commander of Light Infantry Division 11, which oversees security in Rangoon.

He rose to the rank of lieutenant general and worked directly under Senior General Than Shwe and Vice Senior General Maung Aye. He also served as chief minister for Yangon Region under President Thein Sein’s government.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (front) and senior military officials attend a ceremony at the presidential residence in Naypyitaw on March 30, 2016 marking the official transfer of power to the new government following the NLD’s landslide victory in the November 2015 general election. Pictured behind the State Counselor from left to right are Lt-Gen Ye Aung, Lt-Gen Sein Win and Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe. Lt-Gen Ye Aung and Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe would go on to be appointed the ministers of border affairs and home affairs, respectively. Lt-Gen Sein Win was appointed defense minister in 2015. / The Irrawaddy

His 2015 appointment as vice president initially created apprehension among democratic forces and the public, as he was known to be a military hardliner.

During the “Saffron Revolution” uprising in 2007, Lt-Gen Myint Swe led security operations in Rangoon. It is believed he was directly involved in the subsequent crackdown, which received worldwide condemnation.

However, to the surprise of many, under the NLD government, U Myint Swe followed the government’s policies, and several NLD leaders said he has “never tried to rock the boat.”

Lt-Gen Sein Win is known to be a bookworm, and recently wrote a long essay to commemorate Yangon University’s 100th anniversary this year. His essay has been praised and widely shared on social media.

If the military nominates him as vice president, it would be a sign that the institution seeks a better rapport with the civilian government, according to Yangon-based analyst U Yan Myo Thein.

Given his reputation as a steady, clean military officer, some NLD politicians are hopeful that civil-military relations will improve in the second term.

U Aung Hlaing Win, a lawmaker in Myanmar’s Lower House, told The Irrawaddy that Lt-Gen Sein Win was stable and modest, adding that he too hoped to see improved civilian-military ties should he be appointed.

“From that perspective, [I hope] it will get better. “He is a different type from the others. In Parliament, his answers to questions [on the military budget] were sound and satisfactory.”

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