News / Asia

Burma’s Parliament Elects Former PM as President

Thein Sein (File)
Thein Sein (File)

Burma’s military-dominated parliament has elected the country’s first president, choosing military loyalist Thein Sein. Although a civilian now is nominally leading the government, Burma experts say the military maintains its grip on power but there is still a chance for gradual change.  

Burma’s parliament on Friday elected a former general, Prime Minister Thein Sein, to serve as the country’s president in the new civilian government.

He was chosen over two other military loyalists who will serve as vice presidents.  

As prime minister, he was the international face of Burma’s military government and considered the favorite for president.

He resigned from the military to lead the Union Solidarity and Development Party to victory in a controversial November election.

The government says the vote was key to a move to civilian-led democracy.

The USDP, backed by the military, won about 80 percent of the elected seats. Rights groups call the vote a sham and opposition parties complained of vote fraud and intimidation.

Carl Thayer is a professor specializing in Southeast Asia at the Australian Defense Force Academy. He says despite the new civilian leadership, the military remains the dominant force in Burma, also known as Myanmar, but he holds out hope for change.

"If we take the Indonesian example, once you create different interests among civilianized military from the professional military itself, and as Burma opens up, then what we saw in new order Indonesia was a rift between military and the Suharto regime and its cronies. That could also happen in Myanmar," he said.

Burma’s parliament convened this week for the first time in two decades to choose the president, who will then appoint a government.

It is not clear if Senior General Than Shwe will remain head of the military, but Thayer says he is likely to maintain some power at least for the time being.

"To play a role behind the scenes, trying to protect his empire, his family interest, and manipulating. But, at 77 he will go the way of other dictators, that, eventually people will be looking beyond him because of mortality. And thus the loyal subalterns and lieutenants begin to make their own arrangements," he said.

The military closed parliamentary procedures to the public and announced strict rules for raising questions that prevent debate over issues it does not want discussed.

The military-drafted constitution reserves a quarter of all seats in parliament for the army, even before elections.

The largest opposition group won only 12 seats.

The National League for Democracy, the biggest opposition party, was disbanded for boycotting the election and refusing to expel leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The NLD won Burma’s last election in 1990 but the military never allowed it to take power and kept Aung San Suu Kyi locked up for most of the past two decades.

She was freed from house arrest after the elections but is not allowed to participate in politics.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid