President Thein Sein announced further ministerial changes today, the latest stage in a major reshuffle which has seen a third of his cabinet reassigned so far this week.
Key appointments included those of Aung Min, the former railways minister whose main job has been to negotiate a succession of ceasefires with ethnic insurgents, and Soe Thein, formerly a minister of industry who in July promised the government would release all political prisoners in Myanmar.
Both men – considered reformists close to Thein Sein – were moved into the president’s office.
Others deemed hard-line remnants of the previous regime, including Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, were sidelined to lesser ministerial posts.
Zaw Min, who faced public condemnation last year after he said Myanmar had no choice but to sell electricity overseas in what is one of the least electrified countries in Asia, had “permission granted to resign” as Minister of Electric Power-1, state press reported today.
“It’s high time that these unpopular ministers were dismissed if the government is truly serious about the reform process,” said Win Tin, a leading member of the main opposition National League for Democracy.
Other changes included the resignation of Lun Maung who had only been in his auditor-general post for 18 months.
Today’s announcement that Deputy Information Minister Soe Win had been transferred to the less important Ministry of Religious Affairs continued the gutting of a department considered vital amid ongoing media reforms in Myanmar.
On Monday, Thein Sein announced the long-anticipated sidelining of former Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, a figure unpopular with Yangon’s news media.
He was replaced by the former Labor Minister Aung Kyi who used to serve as a liaison between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi when the Nobel Peace Prize winner was under house arrest.
Aung Kyi will now oversee Myanmar’s transition towards a freer press following the announced end of pre-publication censorship last week.
The reshuffle was expected to continue with many newly vacant ministerial positions remaining unfilled.
State abolishes press censorship