The Irrawaddy

U Thein Sein Wins Award for Leadership During Burma’s Transition

President Thein Sein the opening ceremony of the airport.

RANGOON — Former Burmese president U Thein Sein was among the winners of the third Asian Cosmopolitan Awards given out by the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA) in Japan.

An announcement on the ERIA website said the former general U Thein Sein earned the Grand Prize for his leadership during Burma’s transitional period while the Economic and Social Science Prize was awarded to Professor Masahisa Fujita, a Japanese economist. The Cultural Prize was awarded to Herman Van Rompuy, the first full-time President of the European Council and an accomplished Haiku poet, for his Haiku poetry, an Asian art that promotes harmony and mutual understanding.

The prizes will be awarded at a ceremony in Nara Prefecture, Japan, in January 2017.

U Thein Sein became the President of Burma in 2011 when the country’s military ceded power that they had seized in 1962. Despite its claims to be a civilian government, the majority of Thein Sein’s cabinet came from military backgrounds.

He led the ruling military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party that came to power in 2010 through an election that was widely considered fraudulent by observers. The party only managed a humiliating 10 percent of the vote in the 2015 election in which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory.

During his early days in office, U Thein Sein was praised as a reformist for his efforts to bring low-cost SIM cards to the country, which had cost up to US$1,500 in the past. But his vow to fight poverty largely failed.

Under his administration, Burma saw serious sectarian violence between Muslims and ethnic Arakanese in the western part of the country that led to the rise of Buddhist nationalism across the country. The conflict left a troubled legacy for his successor U Htin Kyaw, the President of the National League for Democracy government, when he assumed office in March.