Myanmar President Thein Sein has replaced two key cabinet ministers in an apparent bid to step up reforms before elections next year, officials said.
He submitted a letter to Parliament Wednesday, nominating Deputy Minister of Information Ye Htut and Deputy Minister of Health Than Aung as replacements for Minister of Information Aung Kyi and Minister of Health Pe Thet Khin.
Aung Kyi and Pe Thet Khin were “allowed” to resign “of their own volition” according to a statement Tuesday from Thein Sein’s office.
Ye Htut, who is Thein Sein’s spokesman, told the Irrawaddy online journal that the president had found some shortcomings in the ministers’ performances. He did not elaborate on the shortcomings.
While efforts by both ministers were acknowledged, there were still issues and reforms Thein Sein wanted addressed before the end of his term, Ye Htut said.
“The president recognizes their efforts during their terms. On the other hand, he still needs to boost reforms in his remaining term to have good results. That’s why he made changes at union minister level,” he said.
Myanmar has dealt with increasing communal violence recently, leading to both stronger media controls and a progressively worsening health predicament exacerbated by government controls on aid agencies.
In sectarian hotspot Rakhine state, the government just invited back Paris-based Doctors without Borders [MSF] following its expulsion in February.
It also called for the return of other international aid organizations which had fled a month later when Buddhist mobs disrupted their work helping displaced Rohingyas.
‘Deplorable’ health conditions
On her recent ten-day fact finding mission, newly appointed U.N. human rights envoy to Myanmar Yanghee Lee had criticized the “deplorable” health conditions at displaced-persons camps in Rakhine.
Lee also noted “worrying signs of possible backtracking” on media freedoms and the right to protest despite political reforms enacted over the last three years by President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian administration.
The outspoken Ye Htut was a former lieutenant colonel who joined the Ministry of Information in 2004, became Deputy Minister of Information in 2012, and was appointed the presidential spokesperson in 2013.
He is a prolific Facebook user, with over 75,000 followers, and often uses it as a platform to update and communicate directly with constituents, earning himself the nickname “Minister of Facebook,” according to the Myanmar Times.
Reported by Win Naung Toe for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Di Hoa Le.