President U Htin Kyaw resigns, U Win Myint tipped as replacement

Government says position will be filled within seven days, with Vice President U Myint Swe to serve as acting president until parliament chooses a replacement.

  • State Counsellor’s office confirms resignation
  • U Myint Swe acting president until parliamentary vote
  • NLD stalwart to be elevated after resigning as speaker

By FRONTIER STAFF

YANGON — President U Htin Kyaw has resigned from his position after less than two years in office, with Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker U Win Myint tipped as his replacement.

The unsigned notice, which was posted to Facebook by the President’s Office, said Htin Kyaw resigned on Wednesday because he wanted to “take a rest”.

The notice said a replacement would be in place within seven working days. Parliament is in session this week, and a new president could be voted into place by the end of the week.

During Wednesday’s Pyithu Hluttaw session, deputy speaker T Khun Myat announced Win Myint’s concurrent resignation from the chamber.

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U Monywa Aung Shin, secretary of the information committee of the National League for Democracy, the governing party, said Win Myint would succeed Htin Kyaw.

“We have to assume U Win Myint will be the next president,” he told Frontier on Wednesday morning.

Health rumours

Rumours of the impending resignation of Htin Kyaw, 71, have been widespread for almost a year but government and NLD party officials have consistently denied them.

In May 2017, longtime NLD stalwart U Win Htein claimed that elements hostile to the government, including the military, had falsely spread rumours to suggest the president would resign his post. He was later forced to make a public apology after a military rebuke.  

The government has, however, confirmed that Htin Kyaw sought medical treatment abroad on several occasions, most recently in January when he travelled to Singapore.

A longtime confidant of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Htin Kyaw was a regular visitor to Myanmar’s de facto head of state during her years of house arrest under the former military junta.

President U Htin Kyaw, whose office announced his resignation this morning, attends a New Year's ceremony at Shwedagon Pagoda on January 1. (AFP)

President U Htin Kyaw, whose office announced his resignation this morning, attends a New Year’s ceremony at Shwedagon Pagoda on January 1. (AFP)

From 1980-1992 he was a civil servant at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, before resigning to act as a committee member of the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a body set up in the name of Aung San Suu Kyi’s late mother.

With Aung San Suu Kyi barred by the military-drafted 2008 Constitution from nomination to the presidency, Htin Kyaw has acted as her proxy, acting in a largely ceremonial capacity for the reception of foreign dignitaries and representing the country abroad.

Htin Kyaw’s resignation came the day after Aung San Suu Kyi returned from Australia, following a summit with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

New leader

U Win Myint, 66, is a long-time NLD member and also a trusted member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s retinue, serving for years on the party’s central executive committee.

A science graduate from the University of Yangon, he became a High Court advocate in 1985 at the age of 34.

Aligning himself with the democratic opposition during the tumultuous months in 1988 that brought down the Ne Win regime, he was briefly jailed by the junta.

U Win Myint, left, speaks with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of a parliamentary session in March 2016. (AFP)

U Win Myint, left, speaks with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of a parliamentary session in March 2016. (AFP)

Released ahead of the 1990 elections, he successfully contested the seat of Danubyu in Ayeyarwady Region. The results of the poll were later annulled by the military regime.

Winning a seat in the 2012 by-elections alongside Aung San Suu Kyi, Win Myint was appointed Pyithu Hluttaw speaker after the NLD’s landslide victory in the general elections of 2015.

In that chamber he has maintained strict discipline, rarely allowing debate on motions falling outside the government’s legislative priorities.

Acting president

Speaking to Frontier on Wednesday afternoon, State Counsellor’s Office spokesman U Zaw Htay confirmed the resignation and said the government would fill the vacancy according to the provisions outlined in the constitution.

To that end, Vice President U Myint Swe will serve as acting president until the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Myanmar’s national parliament, selects a replacement.

Myint Swe, a career military officer, was formally nominated to the post by the military’s parliamentary bloc in March 2016.

A former chief minister of Yangon Region, Myint Swe was also head of the Yangon Command during the weeks of popular monk-led protests known internationally as the Saffron Revolution. The subsequent military crackdown claimed dozens of lives and saw several hundred others sent to prison.

U Myint Swe, left, during a Union Solidarity and Development Party campaign rally in Yangon on October 25, 2015. Myint Swe was Yangon Region chief minister at the time. (AFP)

U Myint Swe, left, during a Union Solidarity and Development Party campaign rally in Yangon on October 25, 2015. Myint Swe was Yangon Region chief minister at the time. (AFP)

Myint Swe was in 2012 considered a frontrunner to replace Vice President U Tin Aung Myint Oo after the latter’s sudden resignation, but a son-in-law with Australian citizenship reportedly disqualified him from the post under the same clause that bars Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. It has since been reported that his son-in-law’s Myanmar citizenship has been reinstated.

The constitution states that the acting president is required to “promptly intimate the Head of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw to fill the vacancy within seven days”.

Because Htin Kyaw was nominated by the Pyithu Hluttaw for the presidency, its lawmakers will choose a replacement, after which all lower and upper house lawmakers will vote again for a president from the lower house nominee and the two existing vice presidents, Myint Swe and U Henry Van Thio.

Myint Swe was nominated for the presidency by the military while Henry Van Thio was nominated by the Amyotha Hluttaw.

Reporting by Thomas Kean, Su Myat Mon and Sean Gleeson in Yangon. 

By Frontier

By Frontier

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