Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Myanmar President and Suu Kyi confidant Htin Kyaw resigns



Myanmar President and Suu Kyi confidant Htin Kyaw resigns

Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw (left) and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi talk at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyidaw on October 15, 2017. AFP
Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw (left) and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi talk at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyidaw on October 15, 2017. AFP

Myanmar President and Suu Kyi confidant Htin Kyaw resigns

Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw resigned suddenly on Wednesday leaving the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi without a close confidant and political ally as she faces rising international opprobrium over the Rakhine crisis.

The president, an old school friend of Suu Kyi, served as her proxy in an office she was barred from occupying under Myanmar’s military-drafted constitution.

His role was largely ceremonial with Suu Kyi calling the shots within her civilian administration, under the self-appointed title of state counsellor.

But he was nonetheless the country’s head of state and a key domestic ally for Suu Kyi within her party.

Myanmar’s Vice President Myint Swe, a retired general close to the former junta leader Than Shwe, will temporarily move into the role until a new president is in place, according to the constitution.

Observers say this will likely make some inside Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party queasy as, in theory, decisions could be pushed through – or held back – in this time.

Speculation had swirled for months about the health of Htin Kyaw, 72, who had recently lost weight and has had heart problems in the past.

“Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw resigned on March 21, 2018,” a statement on the president’s official Facebook page said.

His office did not give many details for why he resigned on Wednesday, only saying that “he wanted to take a rest from his current duty”.

It added that a new leader will be selected “within seven working days”.

Shortly after the announcement, Speaker of the Lower House and Suu Kyi ally Win Myint resigned from his position, narrowing his odds of taking up Myanmar’s top civilian office.

“Anyone she selects as president will be someone she has complete trust in,” said independent analyst Richard Horsey.

“That trust is the basis of her being the seat of power in Myanmar. She has no power under the constitution. Any power comes from that relationship with the president.”

Loyal school friend

Htin Kyaw, the country’s first civilian president since 1962, was widely respected and seen as unerringly devoted to Suu Kyi, who said she would rule “above” him after he was elected in 2016.

He has stood firmly by her side even as as her reputation has been shredded internationally for not speaking up on behalf of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community.

A violent military crackdown has forced some 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border into squalid camps in Bangladesh, in what the UN has branded “ethnic cleansing” with possible “hallmarks of genocide”.

The military justifies its campaign as a legitimate response to Rohingya militant attacks against police posts in August.

The civilian government is in a transitional power-sharing arrangement with the army which still retains huge political and economic power.

The army controls three key ministries – home affairs, borders and defence – effectively giving it a carte blanche to conduct any security operations it chooses.

It also has a quarter of legislative seats reserved for officers, giving the military a de facto veto over any constitutional change.

Defenders of Suu Kyi say her government’s hands are tied by the military but critics maintain it could and should have done more to speak up against alleged army atrocities, particularly in Rakhine state.

Domestically Suu Kyi still enjoys broad popular support but, two years into government, her party has disappointed sky-high expectations of rapid development and economic growth, while the Rakhine crisis has recast the international narrative of the country.

Htin Kyaw is the son of a revered poet and helped run Suu Kyi’s charitable foundation before taking over the presidency.

According to an official biography, he studied at the University of London’s Institute of Computer Science from 1971 to 1972.

In a varied career he worked as a university teacher and also held positions in the finance and national planning and foreign affairs ministries in the late 1970s and 80s before retiring from government service as the military tightened its grip.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Tottenham Hotspur to wear ISF Cambodia logo on jerseys in match against Sheffield United

    Last year, the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) – an NGO providing education to underprivileged children in Cambodia – made global headlines with its “socially distanced” football initiative. This year, a world-class football club – Tottenham Hotspur FC – will wear special edition jerseys to show their support for ISF

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American