Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi quelled rumors about the health of President Htin Kyaw on Friday in response to a post on social media indicating that the head of state will soon resign.
The Facebook post said Zaw Myint Maung, chief minister of central Myanmar’s Mandalay region, would replace the ailing Htin Kyaw as president when he steps down.
“The president’s health is not of concern because he has someone to take care of him,” Aung San Suu Kyi said in response to a reporter’s question during a meeting on the implementation of educational development in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.
It is not known who posted the rumor, and the state counselor, did not elaborate on the state of Htin Kyaw’s health.
A few days ago, Win Htein, a member of the central executive committee of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) who serves as the party’s spokesman, said the president’s health is fine, although he has lost 15 pounds.
On Thursday, Htin Kyaw, 71, met with the newly-appointed ambassadors from France and Brazil at the presidential palace in Naypyidaw, the Myanmar News Agency reported.
He will travel to Japan next week to attend the Universal Health Coverage Forum in Tokyo on Dec. 12-15.
Not the first time
This isn’t the first time that unidentified people have posted unsubstantiated stories on Facebook about the health of the president who is known to suffer from heart problems.
In May, the President’s Office dismissed rumors that Htin Kyaw had submitted his resignation due to poor health while Aung San Suu Kyi was on a trip to Europe, and that he was being replaced by Shwe Mann, former speaker of the lower house of parliament.
“That is absolutely not true. The [president] is in good health, and it is not true that he submitted his resignation,” Zaw Htay, director general of the office, said, according to a report by the online news service Democratic Voice of Burma.
At the time, it was unknown who started the rumor and the intention behind it, the report said, though party officials believed it was meant to create political instability in the then 13-month old civilian-led government that had replaced one backed by the military.
Police said they would prosecute those responsible for intentionally spreading the rumors which circulated quickly on social media networks amid Myanmar’s expanding freedoms and internet access, Reuters reported.
Htin Kyaw, who was handpicked by Aung San Suu Kyi and took office on March 30, 2016, serves as a proxy president for the 72-year-old Nobel laureate who serves as Myanmar’s de facto leader.
Though the NLD won roughly 80 percent of the votes in the November 2015 general election, Aung San Suu Kyi could not become president because of a clause in the country’s military-drafted constitution barring anyone with a foreign spouse or children from assuming the nation’s highest political office. The state counselor’s late husband was a British national as are her two sons.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s 21 months in power have been marked by ongoing warfare between ethnic militias and the government military, a puttering peace process, and an explosion of ethnic and religious tensions in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state where military crackdowns have forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
Reported by Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.