YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar President Thein Sein announced a long-awaited reshuffle of his cabinet on Monday that sees his top reformers moved into key ministerial posts and reassignments for remnants of the former military junta.
Ministers of Industry Minister Soe Thein, Minister of National Planning and Economic Development Tin Naing Thein and Rail Transportation Minister Aung Min - Thein Sein’s closest allies - were given posts in the Office of the President, moves seen as efforts to bolster the fast-moving reforms in the post-military era.
The reshuffle of nine ministers, announced on state television, has been anticipated for months and is seen as a strong message of intent by Thein Sein, the former military heavyweight who has surprised the world by freeing more than 650 political prisoners, scrapping media censorship and introducing broad economic liberalization.
Two ministers believed to be close to retired junta strongman Than Shwe were assigned to less prominent ministries.
Aung Min’s shift into the president’s office frees him up to pursue complex political negotiations with at least 10 ethnic minority rebel groups with which the government has agreed ceasefires after decades of conflict during five decades of military rule.
As Industry Minister and chairman of the Myanmar Investment Commission, Soe Thein, was seen as a integral part of efforts to set up special economic zones and attract foreign businesses to an impoverished and strategically-located country rich in oil, gas, timber and precious stones.
He will be joined by Finance Minister Hla Tun in Thein Sein’s inner circle. The replacements for those who were promoted were not announced on Monday.
A member of the president’s advisory board, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters the reshuffle was intended to make the government “more active and vibrant”.
“He’s just sending the right men to the right places,” he added.
A further 15 deputy ministerial posts were announced, which will see four more women in the top tiers of government and promotions for three of the president’s closest advisors.
Labour Minister Aung Kyi, a U.S.-educated former general who served as the junta’s representatives in talks with Aung San Suu Kyi during her stints of house arrest, will also head the Information Ministry overseeing media, which is now enjoying unprecedented freedom after decades of tight control.
He replaces Kyaw Hsan, who held the post for a decade and is believed to an ally of dictator Than Shwe, who relinquished power in March 2011 when Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government took office. Kyaw Hsan will become minister of cooperatives.
Tint Hsan, a businessmen who also was close to the junta leader, was relieved of one of his two posts. He will now handle only the sports portfolio and will be replaced as minister of Hotels and Tourism, sectors the government has targeted for expansion.
Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Michael Roddy