Suu Kyi aide sworn in as Myan­mar pres­i­dent

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

Htin Kyaw, a trusted friend of No­bel lau­re­ate Aung San Suu Kyi, took over as Myan­mar's pres­i­dent on Wed­nes­day, call­ing it a "his­toric mo­ment" in the coun­try's long-drawn tran­si­tion to democ­racy af­ter decades of mil­i­tary rule.

In a day full of cer­e­mony and sym­bol­ism, Htin Kyaw was sworn in along with his two vice pres­i­dents and 18-mem­ber Cab­i­net. Suu Kyi, the face of Myan­mar's pro-democ­racy move­ment, takes on a prom­i­nent role as the coun­try's new for­eign min­is­ter and the head of three other min­istries.

The swear­ing in was held in an aus­tere hall of par­lia­ment, with law­mak­ers dressed in tra­di­tional cos­tume. A few hours later, out­go­ing Pres­i­dent Thein Sein shook hands with his suc­ces­sor and handed him a let­ter of­fi­cially trans­fer­ring power.

While it was a mo­men­tous day in the his­tory of this im­pov­er­ished South­east Asian coun­try, democ­racy still feels in­com­plete. The mil­i­tary re­tains con­sid­er­able power in the gov­ern­ment and par­lia­ment, and the pres­i­dent him­self will play sec­ond fid­dle to Suu Kyi, who has re­peat­edly said she will run the coun­try from be­hind the scenes be­cause the mil­i­tary has en­sured - through a con­sti­tu­tional ma­nip­u­la­tion - that she can­not be the pres­i­dent.

Still, the day be­longed to Htin Kyaw and Suu Kyi, who sat in the front row watch­ing her con­fi­dant be­come head of a gov­ern­ment she had long as­pired to lead. "The Union Par­lia­ment has elected me as pres­i­dent, which is a his­toric mo­ment for this coun­try," Htin Kyaw, 70, said in a speech af­ter be­ing sworn in. He pledged to work to­ward na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, peace be­tween war­ring eth­nic groups and im­prov­ing the lives of Myan­mar's 54 mil­lion peo­ple.

Right­fully, the job be­longed to Suu Kyi, who led her Na­tional League for Democ­racy party to a land­slide win in Novem­ber elec­tions, ush­er­ing in Myan­mar's first civil­ian gov­ern­ment af­ter 54 years of di­rect and in­di­rect mil­i­tary rule.

Suu Kyi en­dured decades of house ar­rest and ha­rass­ment by mil­i­tary rulers with­out ever giv­ing up on her non­vi­o­lent cam­paign to un­seat them. The con­sti­tu­tional clause that de­nied her the pres­i­dency ex­cludes any­one from the po­si­tion who has a for­eign spouse or child. Suu Kyi's two sons are Bri­tish, as was her late hus­band. The clause is widely seen as hav­ing been writ­ten by the mil­i­tary with Suu Kyi in mind.

She has re­peat­edly made it clear that she will run the gov­ern­ment from be­hind the scenes, and in his speech on Wed­nes­day, Htin Kyaw sig­naled the dom­i­nant role Suu Kyi will play in his gov­ern­ment. "The new par­lia­ment and new gov­ern­ment are formed in ac­cord with the poli­cies of the Na­tional League for Democ­racy led by Aung San Suu Kyi," he said, and re­ferred to the party's goal to amend the con­sti­tu­tion.

"I have the obli­ga­tion to work to­ward achiev­ing a con­sti­tu­tion that has demo­cratic norms and is suit­able for the na­tion," Htin Kyaw said.

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