Monday, September 10, 2012

Burma has first woman cabinet member in over 60 years

Monday, 10 September 2012 12:49 Myat Kyaw Thu

Rangoon (Mizzima) – In Burma’s recent cabinet reshuffle, Myat Myat Ohn Khin became the first woman Union minister in more than 60 years.

Myat Myat Ohn Khin was promoted to Union Health minister from deputy minister on Aug. 4.

Deputy Minister for Health Dr. Daw Myat Myat Ohn Khin, right, views an exhibit of World No-Tobacco Day 2011. Photo: WHO / Myanmar

Since regaining independence from Britain in 1948, she is the first woman Union minister in seven governments including military regimes.

“As far as I know, only Khin Kyi (mother of Aung San Suu Kyi) held the highest post as Burmese ambassador to India in the modern history of Burma. Apart from that, no woman has ever been appointed as union minister,” said Win Tin, a senior leader of  the National League for Democracy party.

In the cabinet of President Thein Sein, there are now 36 union ministers and 31 ministries, a slight increase in ministers.  Previously, there were 30 ministers in 34 ministries.

The Industrial Development Ministry was abolished and two electric power ministries were combined as a single ministry. Four new ministers were added to the President’s Office Ministry.

Four new women deputy ministers were appointed out of 15 deputy ministers.

They are Dr. Khin San Yi (Economic Planning and Commerce Ministry), Suu Suu Hlaing (Social Welfare and Resettlement Ministry), Dr. Thet Thet Zin (Environment and Forest Ministry) and Dr. Thein Thein Htay (Health Ministry).

“In fact, I hoped for more union ministerial posts for women, but only one was appointed. Moreover she was from the ruling USDP party. According to international standards, at least one third must be women ministers in the government. So the current number of women in the cabinet is much less,” Rangoon Region legislative assembly member Dr. Nyo Nyo Thinn told Mizzima.

According to a Parliament report released in 2012, Burma ranks 134 out of 143 countries in participation of women in parliament.

Currently, there is no woman justice on the 7-member Supreme Court.

There are 25 women MPs in the 440-seat Lower House, representing 5.7 per cent. There are four women MPs in the 224-seat Upper House, representing only 1.8 per cent. In the Parliament as a whole, women MPs represent 3.75 per cent.

“Now a woman is included in the cabinet, and she holds the highest office among fellow women. But it is still not enough to see only a single woman minister in a male dominated cabinet. It should be at least 4 to 5 women ministers,” said Lower House MP Nan Wah Nu.

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