Thein Sein, Myanmar’s president, has announced a major cabinet reshuffle in what is seen as a move seeking to advance the Southeast Asian’s reform agenda.
In a statement on his website, Thein Sein announced on Monday that he had changed nine of the 29 cabinet posts.
The shake-up is the biggest since Sein’s government took office from the former military junta in March 2011 and launched a wave of dramatic reforms that have surprised the world and prompted Western powers to ease crippling sanctions.
Rumours about a possible government shake-up have circulated for months.
The reshuffle brings in 15 new deputy ministers.
Marker of change
Bridget Welsh, associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University, says the reshuffle is another important marker of change.
“It brings in a whole slew of reformers into key ministries that are actually part and parcel of opening up the economy,” she told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
Among the most prominent changes is the replacement of former information minister Kyaw Hsan, widely seen as a hardliner.
He was replaced by Aung Kyi, labour and social welfare minister, who has also acted as a liaison between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy opposition leader.
The information ministry oversees local and foreign media and the film industry, and has supervised the approval of visas for foreign correspondents.
Kyaw Hsan was kept in government, however, and appointed to head the co-operatives ministry.
The presidential statement said several outgoing ministers, most considered reformists, would be moved to
four new ministerial level posts in the president’s office.
They include the ministers of finance, national planning and economic development, and railways minister Aung Min, who has played a key role in negotiating ceasefires with ethnic rebel groups.
Thein Sein said recently that he would leave behind anyone who was against reform.
Over the last year, his government has spearheaded unprecedented change in Myanmar, relaxing decades of harsh rule and allowing freedoms previously unheard of in the Southeast Asian nation.
But the dominance of the military is still entrenched in the country’s parliament and political system. Twenty-five per cent of MPs come from the armed forces.