Thein Sein

Thein Sein is a Burmese politician and former military commander who has been President of Burma since March 2011.

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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.[1] 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.[2]

Early life

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).[3] 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.[3][4] 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.[3]

Military career

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.[3][5]

Throughout Thein Sein's four-decade-long military career, he was considered a bureaucrat, not a combat soldier.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] The following year, he studied at the Command and General Staff College in Kalaw, Shan State.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] In 1995, he was recruited as the commander of Yangon Division's Military Operations Command 4 in Hmawbi.[citation needed] 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).[citation needed] In 1997, he became a member of the State Peace and Development Council and was appointed as Secretary-2 in 2003.[6][7] He was also promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General that year.[8] After Khin Nyunt was deposed in 2004, Thein Sein was promoted to Secretary-1.[6]


While serving as Commander, he was known to be close to drug lords in the United Wa State Army and Lahu militia officials.[9][10]

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.

Prime Minister

Thein Sein was appointed in April 2007 by the nation's ruling military junta[11] as interim prime minister, replacing Soe Win, who was undergoing medical treatment for leukemia.[12][13] Thein Sein was formally appointed as Soe Win's permanent successor on 24 October 2007 after Soe Win's death on 12 October 2007.[14]

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,[15] and also served as the chairman of the government-sponsored National Convention Convening Commission.[16] Thein Sein carried out high-level negotiations with Bangladesh and Cambodia.[12][13]

In 2007, sometime after his official appointment as prime minister, he was promoted to the rank of General from Lieutenant General.[17] On his first official visit outside Myanmar as prime minister, Thein Sein carried out high-level negotiations with Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.[18][19][20]

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.[7]


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.[21] 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).[22]

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.[23]

Sein was sworn in on 30 March 2011 alongside the two vice presidents and the newly elected parliament.[24]

Regional policy

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.[25] As of July 2011, the government has formed a planning committee led by foreign affairs minister Wunna Maung Lwin.[26]

Domestic policy

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.[27]

On 17 August 2011, he was quoted by the state newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar as saying:[28]

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.[29]

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Burma's President Thein Sein in Naypyitaw, 1 December 2011.


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.[30] 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.[31]

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.[4] 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.[4]

He suffers from heart disease and uses a pacemaker.[32][33]

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.[34] This is in direct contradiction to the 2008 Constitution of Burma, which states:[35]

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.


  1. Ba Kaung (15 August 2011). "Will Naypyidaw's Olive Branch Bear Fruit?". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  2. "One Year of Myanmar’s Thein Sein Government: Background and Outlook of Reforms". KUDO Toshihiro. Retrieved May 2012.
  3. Keller, Bill (30 September 2012). "A Conversation with President U Thein Sein of Myanmar". New York Times. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
  4. Fuller, Thomas (14 March 2012). "A Most Unlikely Liberator in Myanmar". New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
  5. "President Thein Sein". Alternative Asean Network on Burma. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
  6. "Lt-Gen Thein Sein is new PM". Myanmar Times. 29 October 2007. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  7. "THEIN SEIN". Alternative Asean Network on Burma. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  8. Tun Tun (3 February 2011). "Profiles of vice president nominees". Mizzma News. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  9. "President Thein Sein". Alternative Asean Network on Burma. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  10. Thornton, Phil (12 February 2012). "Myanmar's rising drug trade". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  11. "Countries Me-My". Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  12. Burmese junta choose stand-in PM, BBC. Retrieved 20 May 2007.
  13. Burmese Junta Tips New Prime Minister. Retrieved 20 May 2007.
  14. Myanmar appoints new PM, Xinhua. Retrieved 24 October 2007.
  15. Myanmar paramount leader not nominated for president: MPs, Reuters. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  16. Work coordination meeting of National Convention Convening Commission, Work Committee and Management Committee held, The New Light of Myanmar. Retrieved 20 April 2004.
  17. Myanmar PM to visit Laos, Vietnam, Xinhua. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  18. Burma's PM visits Vietnam, Associated Press via The Age. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  19. Laos, Myanmar set to enhance relations, Xinhua. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  20. Myanmar's prime minister visits Cambodia to garner support against sanctions
  21. Wai Moe (5 May 2010). "Tight Censorship on Reporting USDP". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  22. "People's parliament candidates in Zabuthiri constituency (Naypyitaw Union Territory)". Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  23. Burma ex-Prime Minister Thein Sein named new president, BBC, 4 February 2011.
  25. "Burma as Asean Chair in 2014? Think Again.". The Irrawaddy. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  26. Nyi Thit (25 July 2011). "Burma organizes committee to host Asean Summit". Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  27. "Aung San Suu Kyi meets Burma's president Thein Sein". The Guardian. 19 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  28. Ko Htwe (18 August 2011). "'Welcome Home' Greeted with Skepticism". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  29. "Burmese President Invites Return of Citizens Abroad". Voice of America. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  30. "UN refugee chief rejects call to resettle Rohingya". Huffington Post. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  31. "Rohingyas deemed as Non-Humans in Myanmar," Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM), October 22, 2012,
  32. "Profile: Burmese leader Thein Sein". BBC News. 4 February 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  33. McCoy, Clifford (4 May 2011). "Man in the mirror in Myanmar". Asia Times. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  34. Wang Yuanyuan (16 October 2012). "President U Thein Sein re-elected as Myanmar's ruling party leader". Xinhua. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  35. "Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar". Government of Myanmar. 2008. Retrieved 17 October 2012.