By Michael Lipin
Burma has confirmed the resignation of a conservative vice president as part of a Cabinet reshuffle that reformist lawmakers hope will reduce the influence of anti-reform figures in the government.
The speaker for Burma’s two houses of parliament announced the departure of Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo for health reasons on Wednesday, as the two assemblies opened a new legislative session in the capital, Naypyitaw.
Tin Aung Myint Oo is a former top general who is close to retired Burmese military ruler Than Shwe. The outgoing vice president had asked to step down in early May to seek medical treatment for health problems.
Joint assembly speaker Khin Aung Myint said military personnel who hold one quarter of parliamentary seats must nominate a new vice president by July 10 for approval by the full legislature. One of the favorites for the post is election commission chairman Tin Aye.
Burmese lawmaker Aye Maung of the ethnic minority Rakhine National Development Party told VOA Burmese Service that he hopes the next vice president will be a reformist.
“We hope that the army will nominate the kind of person who can go along with the current president’s reform strategy and can work in cooperation with the parliamentarians and also be acceptable to the people,” he said.
Burmese President Thein Sein has introduced a series of political and economic reforms since taking office last year, ending decades of military dictatorship. But, he has faced criticism from government conservatives who are reluctant to give up the powers previously enjoyed by the military.
President Thein Sein has vowed to push forward with what he calls a “second wave” of economic reforms in the new parliamentary session.
Wednesday’s legislative meeting also marked the parliamentary debut of the National League for Democracy party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The NLD won 43 of the 45 seats that it contested in April by-elections, enabling it to enter parliament as an opposition faction with about 10 percent of parliamentary seats.
The NLD was barred from power by Burma’s former ruling generals and boycotted the last parliamentary election organized by the military in 2010. But, NLD members entered the recent by-elections after agreeing to engage with President Thein Sein’s reformist government.
Aung San Suu Kyi did not attend the opening of parliament. She told reporters in Rangoon on Tuesday that she needs several days to recover from an exhausting two-week European tour. But, the NLD leader said she expects to take her parliamentary seat on Monday and plans to be an active participant in the body.
“Regarding the work that we have to do, since now I will be a part of the National Assembly, we’ll be involved in the legislative process. Our party has already prepared some motions to be tabled and this will be done of course,” she said.
President Thein Sein has promised to introduce legislation regulating the flow of overseas funds into Burma as international sanctions are lifted from the once-isolated country.
Lawmakers also are expected to debate bills on the minimum wage, corruption and media censorship in the parliamentary session, which is expected to last until September.
William Gallo contributed to this report.