Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Staunch Suu Kyi ally elected Myanmar president



Staunch Suu Kyi ally elected Myanmar president

Win Myint, then-speaker of the lower house, attends the last day of parliament’s regular session in Naypyidaw on January 29, 2016. AFP
Win Myint, then-speaker of the lower house, attends the last day of parliament’s regular session in Naypyidaw on January 29, 2016. AFP

Staunch Suu Kyi ally elected Myanmar president

Myanmar’s parliament on Wednesday elected a staunch ally of Aung San Suu Kyi as the country’s new president, allowing her to maintain a tight grip on top-level decision-making.

Win Myint, 66, had been tipped for the role after former president Htin Kyaw suddenly stepped down last week, citing the need for rest.

Suu Kyi is barred by the military-drafted constitution from the presidency because she was married to a foreigner and has two sons who are British citizens. She has instead served as state counsellor since her party’s landslide 2015 election victory, declaring she would work “above” the president.

But her position has no official constitutional role.

That makes it crucial for her to have a compliant friend as president as she manages an often fraught power-sharing arrangement with the still powerful military, which ruled the country for almost half a century.

“I will do my best to carry out my duties for the people,” Win Myint told reporters as he left parliament after the vote.

Win Myint, who resigned as lower house speaker last week, swept up nearly two thirds of the votes in a parliament dominated by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

He beat two opponents, including the military-backed acting president Myint Swe.

The former lawyer hails from Suu Kyi’s inner circle – the pair fought side-by-side during the 1988 democracy movement that was violently quashed by the junta and saw Win Myint, alongside many others, being taken political prisoner.

As Myanmar emerged from outright military rule, Win Myint won his seat in 2012 by-elections, the same vote that elevated Suu Kyi to parliament after a combined 15 years of house arrest.

She is still widely regarded as a heroine in Myanmar even though her reputation lies shattered globally for failing to speak up on behalf of the country’s Rohingya Muslim community.

An army crackdown has driven almost 700,000 of the persecuted minority out of the country since last August.

Her supporters say she has her hands tied by the military, which retains control over three key ministries – home affairs, borders and defence – and is guaranteed a quarter of the parliamentary seats.

‘Honest and stern’

Supreme Court advocate Khin Maung Zaw worked with Win Myint in recent years and said: “He is an honest person, he is quite hard-working, but sometimes he is stern.”

As speaker he was known for his passion for protocol, famously dressing down members of parliament for failing to don the correct clothing.

His tenure was marked by “exerting strict control over the MPs”, said Khin Zaw Win, director of Yangon think-tank The Tampadipa Institute.

Activists have been frustrated at his reluctance to abolish a controversial online defamation law that has seen dozens of people face charges for Facebook posts critical of the government or military.

Observers say his appointment is unlikely to change politics much although he could assume some duties from Suu Kyi, who is notoriously unwilling to delegate.

“We cannot expect a very high political impact on Myanmar democratisation,” said independent analyst Yan Myo Thein.

Political analyst Yan Kyaw said that while Win Myint’s profile may rise, “he won’t do anything against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,