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Hardline Myanmar vice president resigns

Publication Date : 07-05-2012


Amid rumours of reshuffling to strengthen reforms, former top general Tin Aung Myint Oo, who is opposed to reforms, quit for health reasons


Myanmar Vice president Tin Aung Myint Oo, 61, has submitted his resignation for health reasons, the Myanmar language service of Voice of America reported yesterday.

The hardline former top general did so last Thursday after returning from medical treatment in Singapore, it said. There was no official confirmation of the report.

However, rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle that would strengthen reformists have been swirling in Myanmar in recent days.

U Tin Aung Myint Oo is a graduate of the country's elite Defence Services Academy. He has been highly decorated and given the title Thiha Thura for his role in repulsing Communist Party of Burma troops in a major battle in 1988 when he was a deputy battalion commander.

He is one of two vice presidents, and was close to retired strongman Than Shwe. In 1997, he was promoted to Secretary-1 of the former junta, and chaired a trade council that had a key role in determining economic policy under the old regime. This enabled him to build ties with a handful of Myanmar's extremely wealthy businessmen.

He is considered a leader of a hardline group in the government which is opposed to the sweeping liberal reforms of President Thein Sein.

But momentum for the reforms has been building up, and liberals led by President Thein Sein and Speaker of Parliament Thura Shwe Mann, a former general with close ties to army chief Min Aung Hlaing, appear to be in the driver's seat.

A slew of international sanctions were lifted or suspended in recent weeks. The United States has upgraded long-curtailed diplomatic relations by appointing an ambassador to Myanmar. The European Union has opened an office in Myanmar. The World Bank is returning to the country, with the Asian Development Bank following suit.

When President Thein Sein visited Japan last month, the first trip by a Myanmar head of state in 28 years, he managed to get US$3.7 billion in loans and interest to his country written off, and also secured promises of resumed aid.

Investors are pouring into Yangon. Parliament's agenda is crammed with new laws needed urgently to modernise the legislative framework to bring it in line with Asean and international standards.

With reforms seemingly unstoppable as long as the army does not interfere, more are likely to join the bandwagon rather than oppose them, analysts say. The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party got a rude shock when the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) swept 43 out of 45 contested Parliament seats in historic by-elections held on April 1.

These included a seat in the capital, Naypyidaw, held by U Tin Aung Myint Oo until he resigned from it last year to assume his duties as vice president. The seat was subsequently won by hip-hop star Zeyar Thaw, who had once been a political prisoner and contested the seat as a rank outsider.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and fellow NLD members were sworn in as Members of Parliament last week, ending a boycott following a dispute over the phrasing of the oath of office.


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