Leaked information from Naypyidaw on Monday evening suggested that junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe had chosen Prime Minister ex-Gen Thein Sein to be the new president of Burma.
Thein Sein, who retired from the army in April to lead the junta’s proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, is Than Shwe’s longterm friend and close aide.
Military sources in Naypyidaw said Thein Sein is described among military officials as “Mr. Clean,” as he is much less corrupt than other generals, such as Shwe Mann and ex-Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo.
Thein Sein, 65, graduated from the elite military school, Defense Services Academy (DSA) Intake 9 in 1968 along with another top junta official, ex Lt-Gen Tin Aye, who many predict could also be in a high-ranking position in the incoming government.
In 1991, Thein Sein served in the War Office as the Colonel General Staff Officer Rank-1 under Than Shwe when the latter was the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Before being Colonel General Staff Officer at the War Office, he was commander of Infantry Battalion 84 in Kalay Township, Sagaing Division.
Later Thein Sein was promoted to Brigadier-General, but still served as the General Staff Officer of the War Office, which was the first time that a Brigadier General had been promoted to General Staff Officer.
In early 1995 he became the commander of Military Operations Command -4 in Hmawbi, Rangoon Division. Following brief service as the commander of MOC-4, Thein Sein was appointed to lead the newly formed Triangle Regional Military Command in Kengtung, eastern Shan State, in 1996.
He later returned to the War Office as Adjutant General during a military reshuffle following a fatal helicopter accident which took the lives of Lt-Gen Tin Oo and other generals in 2001.
He became the junta’s Secretary-1 after former spy chief Gen Khin Nyunt’s downfall in Oct 2004 while Gen Soe Win became Prime Minister.
In April 2007, while Soe Win was suffering from leukemia, Thein Sein was appointed acting prime minister. In October 2007, he became the permanent prime minister after Soe Win passed away.
Appointing Thein Sein as the President of the Republic of Union of Myanmar is thought to be a major part of Than Shwe’s hidden agenda in dealing with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), as well as China and India.
Than Shwe has reportedly given much thought to how his new line-up will look in the eyes of the international community ahead of Burma chairing Asean for the first time in 2014, and hosting the Southeast Asian Games in 2013, Asean diplomatic sources hinted.
Although Thein Sein is known to be the quietest Head of Government among the Asean leaders at regional summits, he is renowned for being confident and persuasive in international dealings.
However, one serious worry for Thein Sein in the coming five-year presidential term is his long-suffering heart disease. Reportedly, he repeatedly asked Than Shwe for permission to retire in 2010 for heath reasons.
There are suggestions, therefore, that Thein Sein might in fact be unhappy with his appointment as President of Burma.