The Faces of the Next Five Years: Burma’s Sworn-In Leadership
By The Irrawaddy 30 March 2016
After 54 years, Burma now has a civilian president.
Htin Kyaw, the ninth president of Burma, along with two vice presidents and 18 cabinet members, was sworn in at the Union Parliament in Naypyidaw on Wednesday, ushering Burma into a new chapter in the country’s democratization process. Those who have spent their entire lives under a military regime will likely celebrate this shift, which marks a milestone on, rather than an end to, the country’s political journey.
Yet a number of acute problems—armed clashes, rampant corruption, natural resource exploitation, strong centralization and bureaucratic red-tape—lie ahead for both the Burmese public and the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) government to tackle.
There were 36 ministries under the previous administration, but the NLD has reduced this number to 21 in order to streamline the Cabinet; below are the men—and woman—who will lead Burma’s government through the next five years.
Htin Kyaw (President)
Born in 1946, the 69-year-old is the oldest president in Burma’s history. He is the second son of Min Thuwun, one of Burma’s respected national poets. The Mon-Burmese University of London graduate was a senior executive with the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a non-profit health and education charity named for Suu Kyi’s mother. He is believed to one of The Lady’s right-hand men. His wife, Su Su Lwin, is a Lower House NLD lawmaker and the chairperson for the chamber’s international relations committee.
Myint Swe (Vice President 1)
Brig-Gen Myint Swe was born in 1951 and is a graduate of the 15th intake of the Defense Services Academy (DSA) in 1971. In the late 1990s, Myint Swe took over outgoing president Thein Sein’s role as general staff officer, a powerful position in the War Office, where he worked directly under Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye.
He became commander of Light Infantry Division 11 in 1997. Later, he was appointed Commander of the army’s Southeastern Command and Rangoon Command. A member of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) since 2001, Myint Swe also acted as the chairman of the SPDC in Rangoon Division.
Myint Swe became the Chief of Military Security Affairs after Khin Nyunt was purged in 2004. Two years later, he was appointed the head of the Bureau of Special Operations (5), a department that oversees security affairs in Rangoon. In 2009, he became quartermaster-general of the armed forces and rumors circulated that he was Than Shwe’s choice for the next commander-in-chief. Instead he became the chief minister for Rangoon Division after the 2012 by-elections. In this role, he was involved in the 2002 arrest of family members of the former dictator Ne Win, the arrest of Khin Nyunt and his associates in 2004, and the crushing of the Saffron Revolution in 2007.
Henry Van Thio (Vice President 2)
Henry Van Thio was born in Thee Khi village in Htantalan Township in Chin State on August 9, 1958. The Chin Christian holds a BA (Dip in Law). He served as a Major in the Burma Army, as well as in different positions in Ministry of Industry (1), before retiring in 2009. He is married and has two sons and a daughter. He joined the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 2015 and in the national election of that same year, he contested and won in Chin State Constituency (3), earning a seat in Burma’s Upper House.
Aung San Suu Kyi (Foreign Affairs, Education, Electric Power and Energy, President’s Office Minister)
NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi’s presidential aspirations were dashed by the military’s refusal to amend Article 59(f) of Burma’s 2008 Constitution. The provision bars her from holding the executive post because her two sons are British citizens, as was her late husband. As the holder of four cabinet positions, some are referring to Suu Kyi’s role in the new government as that of a “super minister.” She has been representing Rangoon’s Kawhmu Township in Parliament’s Lower House since 2012 and has been a leader in Burma’s pro-democracy movement since she entered politics in 1988.
Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe (Home Affairs Minister)
Born on Nov. 27, 1959 in Kyauk Padaung, Mandalay Division, Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe is a graduate of the 22nd intake of the Defense Services Academy and holds a master’s degree in defense. He served as principal of the Defense Services Academy, the commander of South West Command, the Military Security Affairs chief and Border Affairs Minister in the previous government.
Lt-Gen Sein Win (Defense Minister)
Born on July 24, 1956 in Sagaing Division, Lt-Gen Sein Win is a graduate of the 54th intake of the Officer Training School of the Burma Army and holds a master’s degree in defense. He served as chief of the Bureau of Air Defense and was the Defense Minister in the previous government.
Lt-Gen Ye Aung (Border Affairs Minister)
Born on June 8, 1960 in Chauk, Magwe Division, Lt-Gen Ye Aung is a graduate of the 23rd intake of the Defense Services Academy and holds a master’s degree in defense. He served as the commander of the army’s Central Command and is Judge Advocate General in the service. He is also a military representative in the peace talks between the government, ethnic armed groups and the Burma Army.
Pe Myint (Information Minister)
Born in 1949 in Thandwe, Arakan State, the ethnic Arakanese earned his medical degree from the Rangoon University of Medicine in 1975. He worked as a general physician until entering the literary sphere in 1988. He is a renowned writer and is particularly known for his translated works on motivation and personal development. He won Burma’s national literature award in 1995.
Thura Aung Ko (Religious Affairs and Culture Minister)
Born on April 1, 1948, the long-time Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) central executive committee member was a Lower House MP and chairperson of the Judicial and Legal Affairs Committee during Thein Sein’s administration. He lost his Chin State legislative seat in the 2015 election to a candidate from the NLD. Thura Aung Ko graduated from Burma’s Defense Services Academy and served in the military from 1969 to 1997. He had reached the level of brigadier-general when he then joined the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) government and served as deputy minister in the Ministry of Science and Technology and later held the same position in the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Aung Thu (Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Minister)
Born on July 8, 1955, the NLD lawmaker currently represents Rangoon Constituency (6) in Parliament’s Upper House. He is known for his past role as the rector of Rangoon University, and has advocated for a more decentralized education system in Burma.
Thant Zin Maung (Transportation and Telecommunications Minister)
Born on Nov. 15, 1953, Thant Zin Maung has a master’s degree in mathematics and was once the general manager of the government-owned Myanmar Railways. He is a Lower House lawmaker representing Monywa in Sagaing Division.
Ohn Win (Resource and Environmental Conservation Minister)
Born on June 15, 1951, Ohn Win earned a master’s degree in watershed management from Colorado State University in the United States. He is a former pro-rector and professor from the University of Forestry in Yezin, near Naypyidaw, Burma’s capital.
Thein Swe (Minister for Labor and Immigration)
Born on Aug. 4, 1949 in Yenangyaung, Magwe Division, Thein Swe is a graduate of the 13th intake of the Defense Services Academy. He holds a diploma certificate in defense studies (National Defense College), an honorary academic doctorate (Japan International Marine Science and Technology Federation) and a post-graduate diploma in law. He was in the service from 1967 to 2003 and rose through the ranks to major general. He served as the Minister for Transport from 2005 to 2010. He is from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), served in the previous Parliament and is a lawmaker in the Lower House for Arakan State’s Ann Township.
Khin Maung Cho (Minister for Industry)
Born on Nov. 3, 1950 in Meikhtila, Mandalay Division, Khin Maung Cho has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rangoon Institute of Technology and is an executive engineer at Super Seven Stars Motor Industry Company Ltd.
Than Myint (Commerce Minister)
Born on Jan. 17, 1943, the 72-year-old joined the NLD in 2012. Than Myint is currently the chairman of the Hlaing Tharyar Township NLD chapter and a lawmaker in the Lower House representing the same area. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Rangoon University and also earned master’s and doctoral degrees in the US. In the past, he served in a number of positions within the Ministry of Finance.
Dr. Myint Htwe (Health Minister)
Myint Htwe worked in Burma’s Health Ministry from 1976 to 1994 before joining the World Health Organization. He studied at Rangoon University of Medicine, then the Institute of Public Health of the University of Philippines and finally, Johns Hopkins University in the United States, where he earned a doctoral degree in international health and epidemiology. At present, Myint Htwe is a central executive committee (CEC) member of the Myanmar Academy of Medical Science and the vice chairman of the Myanmar Liver Foundation. He is also a member of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission.
Kyaw Win (Planning and Finance Minister)
Born on Feb. 23, 1948, Kyaw Win holds a bachelor’s degree in economics. He spent 20 years working within the National Planning Ministry before joining the Internal Revenue Department and then shifting to business consulting. Currently, Kyaw Win is an NLD lawmaker in the Lower House representing Rangoon’s Dagon Seikkan Township.
Win Khaing (Construction Minister)
Win Khaing graduated from Rangoon Institute of Technology (now Yangon Technological University) and worked for Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise under the Construction Ministry. In 1990, he established United Engineering Co., which still operates today. He is the current chairman of the Myanmar Engineering Society and a member of the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC). He is also a member of the National Energy Management Committee (NEMC), Myanmar Industrial Development Committee (MIDC), Myanmar Board of Engineers (MBE), Committee for Quality Control of High-rise Buildings Projects (CQHP), Asean Federation of Engineering Organizations (AFEO) and Asean Academy of Engineering and Technology (AAET).
Win Myat Aye (Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister)
Born on June 1, 1954, Win Myat Aye is an Upper House lawmaker from Pegu Division’s Constituency (4). He is also a pediatrician and once served as the rector of Magwe University of Medicine.
Ohn Maung (Hotels and Tourism Minister)
Sixty-eight-year-old Ohn Maung has 40 years of experience in the tourism industry and is the former CEO of Inle Princess Resort, a hotel recognized for practices of corporate social responsibility. From southern Shan State, Ohn Maung was elected as an NLD parliamentarian in his native Nyaungshwe (Yawnghwe) in Burma’s 1990 election, but like others from the era, he was not allowed to take office.
Nai Thet Lwin (Ethnic Affairs Minister)
The 76-year-old ethnic Mon minister is the vice chairman of the Mon National Party (MNP), and is highly respected within the Mon political sphere. Nai Thet Lwin was born in Karen State’s Kawkareik Township and later went to Moulmein University, from which he holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Although he did not run for election in 1990, he served as the vice chairman of the Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF), which won five seats before later evolving into today’s MNP. Nai Thet Lwin reportedly has close ties with the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), a coalition of ethnic political parties and an NLD ally. He also reportedly has good relations with leaders of the New Mon State Party (NMSP).