Myanmar junta makes way for civilian govt

 The parliament, packed with retired and serving soldiers, dissolved the junta, the State Peace and Development Council, a formality after a national election in November that was widely criticised as a sham.

The end of military rule is seen as a move to attract much-needed foreign investment to a country that just over 50 years ago was one of Southeast Asia’s most promising and wealthiest, the world’s biggest rice exporter and a major energy producer. It also provides an exit strategy for 78-year-old paramount leader Senior General Than Shwe, who named General Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday as his successor as commander-in-chief, ending months of speculation by signalling his imminent retirement.

With his top allies in key posts in the army and government, Than Shwe has effectively insulated himself from a purge by preventing the emergence of another strongman. Experts agree he is likely to maintain broad behind-the-scenes influence.  Few expect immediate political, economic or social reforms, with the same generals, now retired, in control of a country where 30 per cent of the population live in poverty and botched policies and Western sanctions have blighted its economy.

 In his inaugural address in parliament, President Thein Sein pulled no punches and accused Western countries of “bullying” Myanmar. He urged them to cooperate and give recognition to the new government and its democratic credentials. “Some countries, which say they would like to see socioeconomic progress among Myanmar’s people and the emergence of democracy in Myanmar, should recognise positive changes and developments in the country,” Thein Sein said.

“I hereby invite them to cooperate with our new government... It is high time they stopped applying pressure, supporting opposition groups and economic bullying,” he said.

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