Offering an exclusive insight into the life of Burma’s freshly minted president, Htin Kyaw’s siblings paint a picture of a reliable and incorruptible man who is ready to lead the country into a new era of democratic rule.
With the official vote finalised in a special sitting of Burma’s bicameral parliament on Tuesday, Htin Kyaw is set to govern from 1 April. As Burma’s ninth president, the 69-year-old Rangoon Institute of Economics alumnus will be the country’s first democratically-elected leader since 1962.
Nyan Soe said he believed his younger brother’s commitment to the Buddhist faith would allow him to steadfastly serve the people.
“As this is a transition [between governments], there will be challenges ahead that he will need to attend to, but we believe he will strive diligently to overcome them,” Nyan Soe told DVB in an exclusive interview.
Whether he succeeds or not, however, will depend on the support of the public, he said.
“There will be significant changes in regard to governance when the new cabinet takes over, and I hope our citizens will accept and support their administration.”
One of the toughest tasks facing the president and his cabinet will be cutting the lucrative and long-entrenched ties between business—both legal and illicit—and lawmakers, law enforcers and government officials.
While allegations of corruption have plagued the quasi-civilian administration of President Thein Sein, from the local township level up to the top ranks of Burma’s powerful armed forces, many are hoping that Htin Kyaw will make strides in cleaning up the government.
Nyan Soe expressed confidence in his brother’s ability to tackle a scourge that has plagued Burma for decades.
“Whenever he dealt with government offices in the past, he always took a strong stand against corruption. He would always try to speak to senior officials when he saw it occurring in their departments,” he said.
Despite his forthright manner, however, Nyan Soe said his brother wasn’t especially confrontational. “Instead of getting mixed up in controversies, he devoted his spare time to literature and writing,” he said.
Virtually unknown to most international observers when his name was first put forward as a candidate for the presidency last week, Htin Kyaw has been the subject of a scramble to investigate both his character and qualifications.
A childhood friend and lifelong confidante of National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Htin Kyaw also has impeccable party credentials. His late father Min Thu Win was not only a famous poet, but also a successful NLD candidate in the 1990 election, the results of which were disregarded by the ruling junta.
His late father-in-law U Lwin was a co-founder of the NLD, while his daughter (Htin Kyaw’s wife) Su Su Lwin leads the International Relations Committee as an NLD MP in the upper house.
Htar Cho, Htin Kyaw’s younger sister, said their parents and U Lwin would have been proud to witness the parliament elect him as president.
“I am delighted for him to be honoured like this. Moreover, our parents and his father-in-law would have been very proud if they had lived to see this … I am sad they are no longer with us and I think my brother would feel the same.
“I wish they could see their son now standing strong for the cause they served. This is bittersweet,” she said.
Reporting by Peter Aung and Zeyar Chan Aye.