‘Third wave’ reforms leaves two ministers floundering
THE decision to change ministers in two key portfolios last week was taken because they had failed to live up to President U Thein Sein’s ambi-tious plan for a “third wave” of re-forms, which seeks to tackle corrup-tion and improve the public service, sources said last week.The President’s Oﬃce announced on July 29 that Minister for Infor-mation U Aung Kyi and Minister for Health U Pe Thet Khin had been allowed to resign “of their own vo-lition”. However, sources said that they had been removed from the cabinet.The following day, the presi-dent nominated Deputy Minister for Information U Ye Htut to take over from U Aung Kyi and Deputy Minister for Health U Than Aung to replace Dr Pe Thet Khin. He also appointed Major General Tin Aung Chit from the Commander-in-Chief’s Oﬃce as deputy minister for border aﬀairs to ﬁll the vacancy left by U Maung Maung Ohn, who was appointed chief minister of Rakhine State in late June.U Thein Sein has repeatedly warned in his public addresses that he would not hesitate to remove of-ﬁcials who fail to support his reform agenda. During the regular reshuf-ﬂes that have marked his tenure, the president has often mentioned that he has not made enough progress on building good governance and clean government and hinted at the corrup-tion that still pervades his cabinet.But presidential spokesperson – and new minister for information – U Ye Htut insisted that the pair had not been removed because of corruption.“The president is accelerating the third wave of reforms and some goals are still yet to be accomplished. The two ministers, U Pe Thet Khin and U Aung Kyi, realised that they have problems and diﬃculties tak-ing part in the third wave of the re-form process and completing those goals,” he told
The Myanmar Times
.“The president acknowledges and respects everything they have accomplished ... [but] the president thinks that some changes are need-ed in the government to achieve bet-ter outcomes so he accepted their letters of resignation,” he said. While the removal of U Aung Kyi came as a surprise, U Pe Thet Khin had been under pressure to leave for some time.Earlier this year the president at-tached U Pe Thet Khin to the Presi-dent’s Oﬃce, with Vice President Sai Mauk Kham taking on most of the ministerial duties, a source close to the President’s Oﬃce conﬁrmed. De-spite this, the president had refused to U Pe Thet Khin from the govern-ment altogether.“I was informed that [U Pe Thet Khin] would be removed one year ago because of management prob-lems in the ministry,” said U Myint Oo, a senior member of Myanmar Medical Association. “When I met him at a meeting last month, it seemed he did not have a minister’s decision-making power. He had to report to parlia-mentary committee secretaries U Mya Oo and U Maung Maung Wint before he did anything.”He said the minister’s manage-ment skills were not signiﬁcantly diﬀerent than those of other minis-ters.“I think he was removed because he could not build good relations with other people of authority.”U Myo Zaw Thant, a personal as-sistant to U Than Aung, said he was conﬁdent his boss could do a good job. “The [tasks of a minister] are the normal things for my boss,” he said.The reshuﬄe comes after Presi-dent U Thein Sein ﬁred former Min-ister for Religious Aﬀairs U San Sint on June 19. U San Sint was later ar-rested and charged with misusing state funds. –
Additional reporting by Lun Min Mang
Former minister for Health Dr Pe Thet Khin (left) and former Minister for Information U Aung Kyi.
Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing
EI EI TOE LWIN
Can U Ye Htut tame the media industry?
THE appointment of U Ye Htut as the new minister for information garnered a mixed reaction from Myanmar journal-ists last week, with some saying that his long experience in the sector will help heal the acrimony of recent months.President U Thein Sein nominated Deputy Minister for Information U Ye Htut to the post on July 30, a day after former minister U Aung Kyi resigned. His appointment was conﬁrmed by parliament on August 1. “I think he is better disposed toward the media than U Aung Kyi because he has had a long relationship with the journalists,” said U Than Htay, a joint secretary at the Myanmar Journalist Network.His appointment comes at a critical time for the ministry and the sector, with two recently enacted media laws yet to come into eﬀect and a number of journalists in jail or facing legal action.Press Council member U Thiha Saw, who is also an editorial director at
The Myanmar Times
, said U Ye Htut will focus on enacting new broadcasting and library laws and the by-law for the News Media Law.However, he said U Ye Htut has a mixed reputation in the sector. While he is an important conduit for govern-ment news and opinion, which has been helpful for reporters, he also regu-larly criticises Myanmar journalists for their perceived lack of ethics. A proliﬁc social media user, U Ye Htut has been nicknamed the Minister for Facebook. After rising up through the military, he was transferred to the Ministry of Information in 2005 and played an important role in relaxing pre-publication censorship. He de-clined to comment on his impending appointment when contacted by
The Myanmar Times
last week.Not all are enthusiastic about his ap-pointment. U Ye Htut is seen as a major proponent of the public service media bill, which will prop up failing state-run newspapers with government support. The law has been criticised by the press council because, the council argues, it will undermine private sector media.U Zaw Thet Htway, a leading mem- ber of Myanmar Journalist Union, said he did not think that U Ye Htut’s ap-pointment would bring any improve-ment. “I don’t think his appointment is a step forward for the media,” he said.
Minister for Health Dr Pe Thet Khin and Minister for Information U Aung Kyi were replaced for failing to stick with the president’s much-promoted “third wave” of reforms, which is focused on corruption and red tape
‘The president thinks that some changes are needed in the government to achieve better outcomes’
U Ye Htut,
Minister for information