A former general and member of Burma’s parliament resigned Wednesday amid speculation of a rift within the new military-dominated government or that he may be nominated to become the country’s top judge.
Tin Aye, a member of the majority pro-junta Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), offered no reason for his departure in a letter read by the speaker of the Parliament’s Upper House at the Wednesday session.
Members of Parliament said the resignation came unexpectedly. Tin Aye had been sworn in as an MP only weeks ago at Burma’s inaugural legislative session in the capital of Naypyidaw.
“I don’t know what portfolio Tin Aye will be given now. All of us were surprised that he simply resigned. There have been a lot of rumors, but the most likely reason is that he will be nominated for Chief Justice [of the Supreme Court],” said Khin Shwe, a fellow USDP Parliamentarian.
“He had attended until yesterday, but resigned this morning. Before, we had 659 members of parliament. Now there will be 658.”
The Irrawaddy, a media website run by exiled Burmese journalists, said the move reflected a “sign of dissatisfaction” among the country’s former high-ranking military personnel with the new government power-sharing arrangement.
It noted that Tin Aye’s resignation followed the arrest of Lt. Gen. Thura Myint Aung, who some say had been tipped as successor to Than Shwe, the general who has ruled Burma since 1992 but did not run for president in last November’s general elections.
Tin Aye had won the Parliamentary seat for Tada-U township in Burma’s central Mandalay division in the vote, which was the country’s first in 20 years.
He took part in the polls after stepping down as the head of the military’s ordnance procurement—number six in the military hierarchy.
The parliamentarian, who has also acted as chairman of the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. conglomerate since 2002, was expected to be named defense minister, but was passed over.
Supreme Court decision
Meanwhile, Burma’s Parliament announced today that it will create a new Supreme Court.
“Today they confirmed the number of justices for the Supreme Court as seven,” said Soe Win, a minority MP with the National Democratic Front (NDF), a splinter group from Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).
“At the same time, the president-elect [Thein Sein] nominated Tun Tun Oo as chief justice for the court. They haven’t released all of the [nominations] yet,” he said.
Burma’s state-run media said the nomination would be discussed at Thursday’s parliamentary session.
Burma’s government consists of a three-chamber Parliament which includes the lower House of Representatives and the upper House of Nationalities. The first session of Parliament was held simultaneously with regional parliaments on Jan. 31.
Opposition leader threatened
Aung San Suu Kyi, whose NLD party won the country’s previous elections by a landslide in 1990 but was prevented from taking power, did not take part in the November vote, which was widely viewed as a sham by international observers.
The Burmese junta released her from house arrest after the elections. She had spent 15 of the last two decades under guard at her home.
But while changes in the Burmese government appear to have granted the opposition leader more freedom in recent months, lawmakers say she is at risk of renewed government harassment and imprisonment.
On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke with Suu Kyi by telephone and expressed his concern for her safety.
“I am deeply concerned about the junta’s recent threats to her wellbeing and those of her National League for Democracy colleagues,” McConnell said.
“Such efforts at intimidation are an outrage and should be universally condemned by those around the world who value freedom and democracy,” he said, adding that the Senate would continue to closely monitor Suu Kyi’s safety and the situation in Burma.
McConnell was responding to commentary in Burma’s official New Light of Myanmar newspaper over the weekend that said Suu Kyi and her party would “meet their tragic ends" if they continued efforts to oppose the lifting of Western sanctions against the country.
The NLD had recently issued a statement saying that the measures were pressuring authorities to improve the Burma’s human rights record, while not adversely affecting the country’s economy.
Reported by Zaw Moe Kyaw and Kyaw Kyaw Aung for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Nyein Shwe. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.