Burmese Government in Cabinet Reshuffle

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Intelligence chief takes over as premier

Burma's military regime, under mounting international pressure for keeping opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in custody, has announced changes to several top government posts, RFA's Burmese service reports.

Senior General Than Shwe has stepped down as prime minister and will be replaced by General Khin Nyunt, number three in the junta. Than Shwe, the leader of the junta, will keep his positions as head of the ruling military State Peace and Development Council and as defense minister.

One veteran journalist in Rangoon, Ludu U Sein Win, dismissed the reshuffle as a cosmetic change only. "This is unlikely to bring about any real change for the country or its people," he told RFA's Burmese service in a telephone interview.

Khin Nyunt is currently head of the country's intelligence services. He is thought to have a more pragmatic approach than other senior leaders towards engaging the international community and promoting economic development in Burma.

According to the state broadcasting service, the changes were made for the "effective administration of duties." A further five ministers, and two deputy ministers--most of them ageing veterans--were removed from their posts in the reshuffle.

Khin Nyunt's appointment may signal a slightly less hard-line approach to the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

The international community has protested at the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and key activists after a clash in May between government-hired gangs and supporters of her party. Washington and the European Union have imposed stiffer sanctions against the country since the incident, while Japan has withdrawn new aid.

United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro has also said he will reconsider his annual trip to Burma for talks with officials there in November unless the regime improves its human rights record.


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