Myanmar profile - Leaders

  • 19 August 2015
  • From the section Asia

President: Thein Sein

Thein Sein was sworn into office in March 2011, officially launching a nominally civilian government to replace almost 50 years of military rule.

He had been hand-picked by Senior General Than Shwe, the country's paramount leader since 1992, to succeed him as Myanmar's head of state.

The military-led State Peace and Development Council was dissolved, although the new cabinet included several ex-military men, many of whom were ministers in the junta.

Mr Thein Sein, who held the rank of general and was prime minister in the previous administration, competed in parliamentary elections in November 2010.

The elections were marred by the absence of the National League for Democracy party which won the previous election of 1990 by a landslide and which is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest at the time of the election. The NLD opted to boycott the vote.

Mr Thein Sein had long been seen as the relatively untainted face of the military government, and it is thought that Senior General Than Shwe regarded him as the most suitable frontman for Myanmar's democratic transition.

He is generally considered to be a reformer, and since he became president, there have been undeniable moves towards political liberalisation.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed from house arrest soon after the 2010 election, has been allowed to resume her political activities, although she complains that the government has blocked her from standing in 2015 presidential elections because her children are half-British.

She has reached out to Shwe Mann, whom the president dismissed as chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party ahead of October elections.

After a visit to Burma by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December 2011 ended military sanctions on Myanmar and opened up the country to development aid.

Increasingly frosty relations with the NLD and tension between Buddhists and Muslims have cast a shadow over relations with possible donors, and prompted warnings from the United States about backtracking on progress towards full democracy.

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