Former president to establish ‘Thein Sein Centre’

By MRATT KYAW THU & HTUN KHAING | FRONTIER

YANGON — Former President U Thein Sein is establishing a new civil society organisation intended to facilitate a number of research and outreach activities, according to documents seen by Frontier.

According to the documents, the organisation was registered in March and will work independently with local and foreign counterparts. The centre will include a library, research and development arm and a number of other departments.

According to one source close to the former government, who asked not to be named, funding for the endeavour will be provided by the Norwegian government. Frontier could not independently confirm funding arrangements for the centre.

A number of people closely linked to the former president will sit on the 15-member board of the centre. They include Thein Sein’s brother-in-law U Sein Win Aung, who sits on the Shwedagon Pagoda board of trustees, former Commerce Minister U Win Myint, former Foreign Affairs Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, former Deputy Education Minister Daw Khin San Yee, and former presidential advisors U Ko Ko Hlaing and Dr Nay Zin Latt.

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Ahead of the election campaign last year, Nay Zin Latt founded the National Development Party, widely seen as a proxy for Thein Sein if he wished to run for parliament and was prevented by Thura U Shwe Mann, his rival in the Union Solidarity and Development Party. Shwe Mann had at the time spearheaded an ultimately unsuccessful scheme to require presidential candidates to be selected from the ranks of Union Parliament.

Political analyst Dr Yan Myo Thein said the establishment of the centre suggested that the remnants of Thein Sein’s powerbase in the USDP were already looking ahead to the next election in the hope of bouncing back from the party’s crushing defeat last November.

“It means they’ve been planning for the 2020 election,” he said. “It is a plan to penetrate the country’s civil society organisations. But they have to act with good nature whether they are a civil society organisation or a political party, or they will not be successful.”

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