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Myanmar leader announces cabinet reshuffle

Myanmar's leader has coordinated a significant cabinet reshuffle, as the country edges towards political reform. Reformists have been promoted and conservatives have been demoted in the overhaul.

Myanmar's president Thein Sein reshuffled his cabinet on Monday, according to his office. The political maneuver had been long-anticipated and has been greeted as a sign that reform is starting to take root in the country.

Thein Sein, a former general, gave four of his key ministers a joint additional role as minister of the president's office. Thein Sein's aides said the appointment was with a view to speeding up the current pace of reform in Myanmar. Those appointed to the position include Railway Minister Aung Min, Finance Minister Hla Tun and Industry Minister Soe Thein. The latter two in particular are thought to have been instrumental in the introduction of recent economic reforms in Myanmar.

"They will work for the president. So the president will only need to make final decisions and he will have more time to work on the important matters," said a top government official.

Labor Minister Aung Kyi is also set to take on the role of information minister, replacing Kyaw Hsan, a hard-liner who had experienced thorny relations with the country's media. Aung Kyi was previously the former junta's official liaison to Aung San Suu Kyi when the democratic figurehead was under house arrest.

With opposition to reforms from the more conservative elements of government and parliament enduring, the reshuffle is the latest chapter in Myanmar's incremental but tangible move towards democratization. Since taking up the presidency last year, Thein Sein has overseen a number of major changes in the country, from setting hundreds of political prisoners free to electing Suu Kyi to parliament.

sej/ccp (AFP, AP)