Landmark presidential shift in Myanmar

Member of the National League for Democracy U Htin Kyaw arrives for the opening of the new parliament in Naypyitaw 1 February 2016.Image copyright

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Htin Kyaw is a close aide of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is barred from the presidency herself

Myanmar’s new president is due to be sworn in, the first elected civilian leader in more than 50 years.

Htin Kyaw from the National League for Democracy (NLD) will take over from Thein Sein, who introduced wide-ranging reforms during his five years .

Although Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from becoming the president, she had said she will rule by proxy.

The handover completes the transition that began after the NLD won a landslide win in elections in November.

Thein Sein became president of a quasi-civilian government in 2011 – ending decades of military rule -and is credited with starting the reform process in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Last year, the NLD won 80% of contested seats in a historic election that was considered mostly free and fair and now dominates parliament.

However, the military will still play a role going forward with 25% of the seats in parliament and control of some key ministries.

Aung San Suu Kyi, despite her popularity and prominence, is barred from becoming president under the military-backed constitution because her two sons are British.

Jonah Fisher, BBC News, Nay Pyi Taw – “Myanmar’s reform process has been a bumpy, uneven ride”

Five years ago Myanmar was an international pariah, rusting in the sidings. Sanctions were in place, and people were scared to speak their minds. More than 2,000 political prisoners languished in jail.

Now, as Thein Sein hands over the controls to Aung San Suu Kyi and her party the National League for Democracy, Myanmar is a country on the up.

Where once people were jailed for criticising the junta, there is now a vibrant media and open public debate. The economy’s growing rapidly and a telecoms revolution is under way.

With a few exceptions, notably the Rohingya minority, life for Burmese people has got better, and much of the credit for that must go to the stewardship of Thein Sein.

Read more from Jonah Fisher: Thein Sein’s legacy of reform

Who is Htin Kyaw?

  • Htin Kyaw, 69, is Ms Suu Kyi’s close aide.
  • He attended university in the UK. He has a reputation for honesty and loyalty, and has kept a low profile.
  • His father, the writer and poet Min Thu Wun, won a seat for the party at the 1990 election.
  • His wife, Su Su Lwin, is the daughter of an NLD founder, as well as being a sitting MP, and a prominent party member.
  • He has played a senior role at the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, the charity founded in honour of Suu Kyi’s late mother, and has been frequently seen at the NLD leader’s side, serving as her driver from time to time.

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