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Burma: Group Questions Legality of Cabinet Appointments

(Mar. 14, 2011) A former Burmese political party formally dissolved last year, the National League for Democracy (NLD), recently published a statement arguing that the President-elect of the country should not have appointed government ministers to his Cabinet before actually taking office. Thein Sein has been the defacto head of the government, even though not yet sworn in as Prime Minister, a post to which he was elected on February 4 of this year. The statement calls the recent appointments contraventions of the country's law, based on the Constitution of 2008. This Constitution is controversial in Burma; some argue that it is designed to limit the role of the opposition. (Ahunt Phone Myat, President's Clout “Is Premature” Says NLD, DEMOCRATIC VOICE OF BURMA ONLINE (Mar. 10, 2011); Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008) [in English translation], as published by the Ministry of Information (Sept. 2008), BURMA DIGEST website.)

According to NLD spokesperson Nyan Win, the Constitution does not permit “a person who is still the president-elect to carry out those tasks,” that is, placing people in Cabinet positions. (Myat, supra.) The appointments that were made were largely military personnel placed in non-military government positions, despite the statements by the country's ruling group that a transition to civilian rule is going forward. (Id.)

The NLD is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, a leader of the democracy movement in her country, and has remained active in opposition to the military junta ruling Burma despite having been dissolved as a political party. (Id.)