Burma President Considering Cabinet Reshuffle to Accelerate Change: Reports

Posted July 4th, 2012 at 3:30 am (UTC-5)
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Burmese President Thein Sein is reported to be planning to reshuffle his cabinet and appoint a new vice president as part of an effort to push for quicker reforms in the Southeast Asian nation.

Senior government officials were quoted in reports Wednesday as saying the president will soon drop several hardliner government ministers who were opposed to the recent political reforms in Burma.

Officials also say the government has confirmed the resignation of Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo, a former top general who is close to retired military leader Than Shwe.

Since taking power last year, President Thein Sein has faced criticism from some in his government who are reluctant to give up the powers enjoyed by the military dictatorship that ruled the country for nearly half a century.

But the president has vowed to push forward with what he calls a “second wave” of reforms, this time focused on the economy. Many of those economic reforms are expected to be debated during the current session of parliament that began Wednesday.

The reconvening of the National Assembly is seen as a key test of continued reform in Burma, because it will now include a small but important minority of lawmakers from the once-banned National League for Democracy.

Led by long-time pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD won 43 of the 45 seats it contested in April by-elections. But Aung San Suu Kyi will not be among those taking their seats in parliament Wednesday, as she is recovering from an five-nation tour of Europe.

Now Burma's main opposition group, the NLD faces an uphill battle in a parliament that is still overwhelmingly dominated by military-backed parties.

Even so, Aung San Suu Kyi said Tuesday her party has already prepared several motions to be discussed in the current legislative session.

“Regarding the work that we have to do, since now I will be a part of the National Assembly, we'll be involved in the legislative process. Our party has already prepared some motions to be tabled and this will be done of course.”

It is uncertain exactly what measures will be passed in the current session of parliament. But President Thein Sein has promised to push through a law to regulate the flow of overseas cash set to stream into Burma as international sanctions are lifted from the once-isolated country.

Lawmakers are also expected to debate bills on minimum wage, corruption and media censorship during the parliament session, which is expected to last until September.

The session resumes a day after Burma announced the release of at least 20 political prisoners as part of an amnesty the government says is aimed at promoting national unity.

The move was met with cautious optimism from rights groups and activists, who have called on the government to release all of the estimated hundreds of prisoners of conscience who remain jailed.