Thein Sein Appoints Presidential Advisors

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source : The Irrawaddy

President Thein Sein, right, and Vice President Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo attend a reception to mark the 64th anniversary of Union Day in Naypyidaw on Feb. 12. (Photo: AP)

Burmese President Thein Sein has appointed a presidential advisory board, which includes a chief economic advisor who is a close friend of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to some of the appointed advisors, the advisory board consists of three committees—political, economic and legal—which will, in turn, be made up of three members each. The economic advisory board will be led by U Myint, a well-known Burmese economist with a close personal relationship with Suu Kyi.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, U Myint said his appointment came after he was called in by Thein Sein for a personal meeting. He described the appointment as a positive step by the new civilian government.

“I think the president is confident that I wish to do good for our own country,” he said. “I think that we are on the same page. That’s why I accepted this responsibility.”

He said his first advice to the president would be related to the country’s agricultural sector and tackling poverty, adding that he believes the president shares his desire to carry out economic reforms.

U Myint, 73, was previously a professor of economics at Rangoon University. He also served as the director of the economics department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Later, he headed the Research Department at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. He is currently the director of the Tun Foundation Bank in Rangoon.

In a seminar last year, U Myint said that as long as the Burmese government and its cronies were controlling the country’s economy, the country would face the same dismal economic situation even in the year 3010.

Asked about his position as an advisor to Thein Sein and as a friend of Suu Kyi, U Myint said, “I very much wish to see reconciliation in Burma. I will try to help bring about that. I will meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with whom I am very friendly. She is a woman who can do a lot for the country, as she continues to do now.”

“Although it is still not clear how much I can do, and how much they [the government] will do at this point, I think this is an unusual but a positive step,” he said. “We have to sit down and discuss what to do. It will take time to change things under the current circumstances.”

During last week’s cabinet meetings, President Thein Sein stressed the importance of building the country’s infrastructure and boosting agricultural development—echoing policies frequently espoused by the former military junta in which he served as the prime minister.

In the president’s new political advisory board, Ko Ko Hlaing, a retired military officer who used to work in the Research Department at the War Office of the Ministry of Defense, was appointed chief advisor. He is currently working on an international news program for the state-run MRTV-4 television channel.

The other two members in the political advisory board are Ye Tint and Dr. Nay Zin Latt, both former military officers—with Ye Tint, the managing director of a government-backed printing and publishing enterprise, and Nay Zin Latt, an executive member of the Burma Hoteliers’ Association.

Ko Ko Hlaing said his role is to advise the president about international political events, but not domestic issues. Commenting on the US’ twin policy of economic sanctions and engagement with Burma, he said mutual understanding would be crucial to establishing good relations between the two countries.

“It’s difficult to expect solid changes,” he said. “Things have to proceed gradually.”

He said that Burma will continue to build peaceful relations with all countries, including North Korea.

The legal advisory board will be led by Police Col. Sit Aye, the former director of the Home Ministry’s International Relations Department.

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