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Myanmar Government Plan Includes New Ethnic Affairs Ministry

  • VOA News

FILE - Lawmakers of National League for Democracy party (NLD) walk in parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, ahead of a parliamentary session, March 15, 2016.

FILE - Lawmakers of National League for Democracy party (NLD) walk in parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, ahead of a parliamentary session, March 15, 2016.

Myanmar's incoming government has released its plan for a new government, including a new ethnic-affairs ministry for the nation scarred by sectarian tensions and repression of some ethnic groups.

New president Htin Kyaw submitted his proposal Thursday, with a parliamentary debate on it scheduled for Friday.

The plan includes the ethnic ministry in a wider civil service reform plan aimed at streamlining the bureaucracy left behind by the military government that ruled Myanmar for decades. A Cabinet of 36 ministries is expected to be slimmed down to 21.

The military government had been accused of cracking down on ethnic Rohingya in northern Rakhine State, in response to riots in 2012 between the primarily Muslim Rohingya and the primarily Buddhist Rakhine. In recent years, Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar by boat to the neighboring nations of Thailand and Malaysia.

Myanmar is home to a number of other ethnic groups including Shan, Bamar, and Kachin.

Rohingya residents of the Aung Minglar neighborhood in Sittwe, Myanmar, June 4, 2015. (Colin Lovett/VOA)

Rohingya residents of the Aung Minglar neighborhood in Sittwe, Myanmar, June 4, 2015. (Colin Lovett/VOA)

First civilian president

On Tuesday 70-year-old Htin Kyaw was chosen to become Myanmar's first civilian president in more than five decades, receiving 360 of the 652 votes cast to defeat two other candidates.

His election was a foregone conclusion. He is a childhood friend and longtime confidant of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, which took both chambers of parliament in November's historic elections.

Htin Kyaw, center, newly elected president of Myanmar, walks with National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, at Myanmar's parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

Htin Kyaw, center, newly elected president of Myanmar, walks with National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, at Myanmar's parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president, due to a provision in the constitution that prohibits anyone with a foreign-born spouse or children. Her late husband and two sons are British. But she has vowed to rule the country through a proxy candidate.

Htin Kyaw will assume office on April 1, formally ending more than 50 years of complete or partial military rule.

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