|Myanmar reports fuel talk of cabinet reshuffle|
|By: Gwen Robinson in Bangkok|
Tin Aung Myint Oo built substantial personal wealth and connections that included Chinese interests and tycoons
Reports of the resignation of one of Myanmar’s two vice-presidents, influential conservative Tin Aung Myint Oo, have heightened speculation about an imminent cabinet reshuffle.
Myanmar media and the local language service of Voice of America reported on Sunday that Tin Aung Myint Oo, a former, a general and protégé of retired dictator Than Shwe, resigned as vice-president on May 3 for health reasons after receiving medical treatment in Singapore.
Government officials could not be contacted on Sunday night but Yangon-based diplomats said rumours of Tin Aung Myint Oo’s impending departure had intensified last week. The vice-president – known as an abrasive figure and critic of some of the president’s reforms – has dropped from public view in recent weeks.
His exit would be “very significant” said one diplomat, not only because of his opposition to political and some economic reforms, but also because of his support for the old-style “crony capitalist” model of business.
As a former chief of the Trade Council, which oversaw export and import licenses, Tin Aung Myint Oo built up substantial personal wealth and connections that included Chinese interests and tycoons such as Zaw Zaw, owner of the Max Myanmar group of companies.
He was also known to be heavily involved in negotiations with China for some big natural resources and infrastructure projects in Myanmar. These included the controversial $3.6bn Myitsone Dam in the country’s north, which was abruptly suspended last September by Thein Sein, the president, amid growing public outcry over the dam’s environmental impact.
The shift highlights growing political confidence on the part of the president to tackle conservatives in his administration after western governments moved to ease sanctions following the April 1 by-elections. The polls delivered a sweeping victory for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, which won 43 of 45 seats contested, and was a stinging blow for the government-backed USDP party.
Others, however, noted that armed forces commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing – who selects the military’s parliamentary representatives – had been supportive of the president’s reforms. “Senior representatives are more likely, not less so, to think independently and vote on an individual basis,” said Richard Horsey, an independent Myanmar analyst.
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