October 24, 2016

Myanmar swears in civilian president after 56 years

Htin Kyaw (l) takes over from former general Thein Sein, who has led the country since 2011 [Reuters]

Htin Kyaw has been sworn in as Myanmar’s new president after more than five decades of military rule in the country.

In a ceremony in the parliament on Wednesday, democracy icon and leader of the ruling party Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as minister of foreign affairs, education and energy, and will also hold the president’s office portfolio.

She was unable to become president because of a constitutional block even though she led her National League for Democracy party (NLD) to a landslide win in general elections last November.

Myanmar has been under military or military-dominated rule since a coup in 1962, and the elections in November which brought the new government to power were the first openly contested polls since 1990.

Htin Kyaw is a close confidant of Myanmar’s Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi and longtime member of NLD.

Two vice-presidents, one of them a military nominee, are also due to take the oath of office, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

Htin Kyaw takes over from former general Thein Sein, who has led the country since 2011. Under Thein Sein, the government set in motion reforms which have opened up the once-isolated country to the outside world, including to foreign investment.

Who is Htin Kyaw?

Htin Kyaw is known among political commentators as a party insider with close ties to Suu Kyi going back many decades, including as one of her classmates at high school in Yangon.

Born in 1946, the 69-year-old is the son of a famous poet and writer, Min Thu Wan, who ran as an NLD candidate in the 1990 elections.

Htin Kyaw is married to NLD lawmaker Su Su Lwin, whose father U Lwin is one of the party’s founding members.

He studied economics at the University of Yangon and went on to study computer science.

He had a stint as a government employee while Myanmar was under military rule but was jailed in 2000 after he tested the limits of Suu Kyi’s house arrest at the time.

Until his election, Htin Kyaw was the head of the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity named after Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s mother.

Need for military

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s commander-in-chief of the armed forces has stressed that there is a “need” for the military to remain a political force.

Senior general Min Aung Hlaing, making an Armed Forces Day speech in the capital, Naypyidaw, reasserted the military’s belief that it is the country’s sole unifying force and protector of the constitution.

“The Tatmadaw has to be present as the leading role in national politics with regard to the ways we stand along the history and the critical situations of the country,” Min Aung Hlaing said, referring to the armed forces by their Myanmar name. Source: Agencies

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