Thein Sein (Burmese: သိန်းစိန် [θéɪɴ zèɪɴ]; born 20 April 1945) is a Burmese politician and former military commander who has been President of Burma (Myanmar) since March 2011. He was the Prime Minister from 2007 until 2011 and considered by some as a moderate and reformist in the post-junta government. His new government undertook a series of political reforms including some deregulation of the country's censored media, releasing many political prisoners and halting the country’s controversial large Chinese-led hydro-power project. The striking developments that followed included Myanmar’s appointment to chair ASEAN in 2014, improved relations with the US, the reinstatement of major opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD)in the by-election held on April 1, 2012.
Thein Sein was born in Kyonku, British Burma (now Myanmar), a small Irrawaddy delta village near Hainggyi Island in what is now Ngapudaw Township to parents Maung Phyo (father) and Khin Nyunt (mother). He was the youngest of three children. His parents were landless farmers, and his father made a living carrying cargo at the river jetty and weaving bamboo mats. Thein Sein's father Maung Phyo became a Buddhist monk 10 years after his wife's death, and spent his remaining years as a monk.
Thein Sein graduated from the 9th intake of the Defense Services Academy with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1968, becoming a second lieutenant afterward.
Throughout Thein Sein's four-decade-long military career, he was considered a bureaucrat, not a combat soldier. In 1988, he served as a major for Sagaing Division's 55th Light Infantry Division and later served as a commander for Sagaing Division's 89th Infantry Battalion in Kalay Township. The following year, he studied at the Command and General Staff College in Kalaw, Shan State. By 1991, he had returned to Yangon, after being promoted to the rank of colonel and 1st Grade General Staff Officer in the War Office. He was then promoted to Brigadier General, but remained at his position in the War Office, which marked the first time a Brigadier General was promoted to General Staff Officer. In 1995, he was recruited as the commander of Yangon Division's Military Operations Command 4 in Hmawbi. A year later, in 1996, he was appointed to lead the new Triangle Regional Military Command in Kyaingtong, Shan State, serving this role for four years (1997–2001). In 1997, he became a member of the State Peace and Development Council and was appointed as Secretary-2 in 2003. He was also promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General that year. After Khin Nyunt was deposed in 2004, Thein Sein was promoted to Secretary-1.
While serving as Commander, he was known to be close to drug lords in the United Wa State Army and Lahu militia officials.
Thein Sein was known to be close to General Than Shwe a known war criminal, former Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council and leader of Burma until 2011.
Thein Sein was appointed in April 2007 by the nation's ruling military junta as interim prime minister, replacing Soe Win, who was undergoing medical treatment for leukemia. Thein Sein was formally appointed as Soe Win's permanent successor on 24 October 2007 after Soe Win's death on 12 October 2007.
Sein held the position of first secretary in the ruling State Peace and Development Council junta. He was the country's fourth-highest ranking general, and also served as the chairman of the government-sponsored National Convention Convening Commission. Thein Sein carried out high-level negotiations with Bangladesh and Cambodia.
In 2007, sometime after his official appointment as prime minister, he was promoted to the rank of General from Lieutenant General. On his first official visit outside Myanmar as prime minister, Thein Sein carried out high-level negotiations with Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, he led the National Disaster Preparedness Central Committee as chairman and was criticized for the government's systematic blocking of relief efforts.
Election and appointment
On 29 April 2010, he retired from the military, along with 22 other military officials, to lead the Union Solidarity and Development Party as a civilian. During the 2010 general election, he was head of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, which contested in a controversial election and won the overwhelming majority of seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. Thein Sein ran against National Unity Party candidate Kyaw Aye during the election, contesting a Pyithu Hluttaw seat to represent the constituents of Naypyidaw Union Territory's Zabuthiri Township. He purportedly won 91.2% of the votes (65,620).
On 4 February 2011, Sein was elected by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw's Presidential Electoral College as the next president of Myanmar, becoming the country's first non-interim civilian president in 49 years. Tin Aung Myint Oo and Sai Mauk Kham were named as the new vice-presidents.
Sein was sworn in on 30 March 2011 alongside the two vice presidents and the newly elected parliament.
In the first month of his presidency, he sought the support of ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan to support Burma's bid to chair the ASEAN Summit in 2014. As of July 2011, the government has formed a planning committee led by foreign affairs minister Wunna Maung Lwin.
Some has considered Thein Sein as a moderate because he was willing to engage with Aung San Suu Kyi; he had a high-profile meeting with her in Naypyidaw on 19 August 2011.
On 17 August 2011, he was quoted by the state newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar as saying:
|“||We will make reviews to make sure that Myanmar [Burmese] citizens living abroad for some reasons can return home if they have not committed any crimes. And if a Myanmar citizen in a foreign country who committed crimes applies for returning home to serve terms, we will show our benevolent attitude in dealing with his case.||”|
Various news sources intrepreted his suggestion as an invitation for overseas Burmese citizens to return to their country of origin and help rebuild the Burmese economy.
Thein Sein has proposed that the minority Rohingya ethnic group, which has lived in Burma for hundreds of years be "resettled" abroad, a proposal the United Nations was quick to object to. Thein Sein has also supported domestic policies which label Rohingya as "non-human beings," a racist and potentially genocide encouraging policy that makes it crime for Burmese citizens to even admit the existence of Rohingya people.
2012 cabinet reshuffle
On 27 August 2012, Thein Shein announced a major cabinet reshuffle of 9 ministers and 15 deputy ministers, to consolidate the authority of his office by removing hardliner ministers and replacing them with political allies. Among the more prominent changes was the transfer of Kyaw Hsan from the post of Minister for Information to Minister of Cooperatives, and the appointment of Aung Min, Tin Naing Thein and Soe Thein, all former lieutenants under Thein Sein, to the posts of Minister of the President's Office.
He suffers from heart disease and uses a pacemaker.
Union Solidarity and Development Party
On 16 October 2012, Thein Sein was re-elected as the chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) at the USDP's first party conference in Naypyidaw. This is in direct contradiction to the 2008 Constitution of Burma, which states:
|“||If the President or the Vice-Presidents are members of a political party, they shall not take part in its party activities during their term of office from the day of their election.||”|
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