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Former regime defender to be state counsellor’s minister

By Lun Min Mang  •  May 12, 2016

A former ambassador to the UN who routinely defended the military that incarcerated Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is set to become her closest minister.

U Kyaw Tint Swe has been appointed by President U Htin Kyaw and his name will be put to parliament tomorrow as minister for the newly created office of state counsellor, senior National League for Democracy official U Win Htein told The Myanmar Times yesterday.

“We assume that he is the most appropriate candidate for the position, with his vast diplomatic experiences,” U Win Htein said.

U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, declined to comment, saying it was “inappropriate” to speak before parliament was told.

A veteran of the diplomatic corps, U Kyaw Tint Swe joined the foreign ministry in 1968. The pinnacle of his long career came from 2001 to 2010 when he served as Myanmar’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations.

He later served as vice chair of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC), a much criticised body set up under then-president U Thein Sein.

“The MNHRC Chairman and Vice-Chairman have routinely denied the existence of human rights violations in Burma and defended the military regime’s abysmal human rights record at the UN for nearly 15 years,” said Burma Partnership, a network of pro-democracy groups.

“At the UN, on several occasions Kyaw Tint Swe claimed that Burma was a victim of a ‘systematic disinformation campaign’. He also denied allegations of child soldier recruitment as well as the regime’s involvement in the Depayin massacre,” Burma Partnership said, referring to an incident in 2003 in which at least 70 NLD associates were killed by a government-backed mob.

Critics have questioned the necessity of setting up a new ministry while the National League for Democracy-led government already has 21 ministries, 18 ministers and five deputy ministers, having pared down the number of ministries set up by U Thein Sein. U Htin Kyaw said the new ministry would help the state counsellor work “more effectively”.

Parliament approved the president’s May 5 proposal for the new ministry on May 10 through default. No MPs, not even from the unelected military contingent, registered to debate the proposal, allowing it to go through automatically.

The size of her ministry and budget are as yet unknown.

The president told parliament the ministry would tackle “national reconciliation, peace, development, rule of law and other government tasks”.

U Than Soe Naing, a political commentator, says the new ministry is unnecessary.

“She’s got legitimate power under the current political circumstances and the constitution. To my understanding, the granting of the state counsellor position to her was quite personal, and it has already created a bottleneck in relations with the military,” he said.

As well as his long stint at the UN, 71-year-old U Kyaw Tint Swe served as ambassador to Japan from 1994 to 1997, and was a diplomat in Israel, Malaysia, Germany and Thailand.

From 1998 to 2001 he was director-general of international organisations and economic development at the foreign ministry and also acting director general of the ASEAN department.

He worked closely with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 2013 on the Letpadaung Inquiry Commission looking into the Chinese-operated copper mine in Sagaing Region. The NLD leader, then an MP, chaired the commission whose controversial report did not hold police accountable for using smoke bombs containing phosphorus against protesters and concluded that mining activities could continue.

View the original post here: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/20249-former-regime-defender-to-be-state-counsellor-s-minister.html

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