Myint Swe New VP in Major Cabinet Shakeup

By The Irrawaddy 25 July 2012

Informed sources in Naypyidaw confirmed that several key ministers will be reshuffled in order to shake up the government in response to accusations of sluggish reform and strong resistance from hardliner factions.

Aung Min, the current railways minister, is to be attached to the President’s Office after his success in ceasefire talks with ethnic armed groups. Kyaw Hsan, minister for information and culture, is likely to relinquish is post.

Kyaw Hsan is known to be a conservative hardliner within the cabinet and often likened to a Burmese “Comical Ali” in reference to the Iraqi propaganda chief during the 2003 US-led invasion. Several other key positions are also due to change including the ministers of finance, tourism, national planning and the governor of the Central Bank.

Moreover, insiders have confirmed that the long-delayed process for appointing Burma’s new vice-president would soon be over. Myint Swe, currently chief minister of Rangoon Division, was in line for the job until it emerged last week that an immediate family members holds foreign citizenship.

One of Myint Swe’s children now reportedly lives in Australia and has become citizen there. According to Burma’s 2008 Constitution, any Burmese national whose relatives are foreign citizens or hold foreign citizenship cannot serve as president or vice-president.

But sources in the capital said that Myint Swe remains a favorite choice amongst the nation’s powerful armed forces. If confirmed, he will take over the first vice-president position which was vacated after the abrupt resignation of ex-Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo in May when he was diagnosed with cancer. Myint Swe has apparently been given “clearance” regarding his family conflict.

As Tin Aung Myint Oo stood as a parliamentary candidate for the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and was nominated as vice-president by armed forces delegates, whoever becomes his replacement must also be put forward by the military.

However, it is rumored that Myint Swe receives little backing from the USDP leadership despite overwhelming support from the men in uniform. It is also believed that he will work closely with the president.

Known to be close to former dictator Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his wife Kyaing Kyaing, Myint Swe unsurprisingly remains the favorite choice in the armed forces. He had a prominent military career and was head of Bureau of Special Operations 5 that oversaw Rangoon Division during the brutal crackdown on the monk-led Saffron Revolution popular uprising in 2007.

Military appointees in Parliament originally nominated Myint Swe on July 10. A parliamentary committee was then formed to oversee the process of appointing the new vice-president.

Myint Swe became chief of Rangoon Division after the 2012 general elections. Since the early 2000s, he has held several key positions in the former capital. A graduate of the 15th intake of the Defense Services Academy in 1971, Myint Swe, an ethnic Mon, rose steadily through the ranks to become commander of Light Infantry Division 11, which oversees security in Rangoon.

Lieut-Gen Wai Lwin, a former deputy commander of Rangoon Division and commander of Naypyidaw, is considered the frontrunner for Rangoon Division chief minister following the expected rise of Myint Swe. He is also known to be a favorite of Than Shwe and thus was appointed head of security in the new capital.

A few weeks ago, Wai Lwin was substituted into the Rangoon Region Parliament in place of Capt Lin Lin Kyaw—a sign that he was considered suitable for a legislative position.