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Thein Sein

Thein Sein
Thein Sein in 2013
8th President of Myanmar
In office
30 March 2011 – 30 March 2016
Vice PresidentTin Aung Myint Oo
Sai Mauk Kham
Nyan Tun
Preceded byThan Shwe (Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council)
Succeeded byHtin Kyaw
Prime Minister of Myanmar
In office
12 October 2007 – 30 March 2011[1]
Acting: April 2007 – 12 October 2007
LeaderThan Shwe
Preceded bySoe Win
Succeeded byMin Aung Hlaing (2021)
Secretary 1 of the State Peace and Development Council
In office
19 October 2004 – 12 October 2007
Preceded bySoe Win
Succeeded byTin Aung Myint Oo
Secretary 2 of the State Peace and Development Council
In office
25 August 2003 – 19 October 2004
Preceded bySoe Win
Succeeded byTin Aung Myint Oo
Member of Parliament
for Zabuthiri
In office
31 January 2011 – 30 March 2011
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded bySanda Min
Majority65,620 (91.2%)
Personal details
Born (1944-04-20) 20 April 1944 (age 80)
Kyounku, Burma (now Myanmar)
Political partyUnion Solidarity and Development Party (2010–2016)
SpouseKhin Khin Win
Alma materDefence Services Academy
CabinetThein Sein's Cabinet
Military service
Allegiance Myanmar
Branch/service Myanmar Army
Years of service1968–2010
Rank General

Thein Sein (Burmese: သိန်းစိန်; IPA: [θéɪɰ̃ sèɪɰ̃]; born 20 April 1944) is a Burmese politician and retired general in the Myanmar Army who served as the eighth President of Myanmar from 2011 to 2016. He previously served as Prime Minister from 2007 to 2011, and was considered by many in and outside Myanmar as a reformist leader in the post-junta government.[2]

His government undertook a series of political reforms including some deregulation of the country's censored media, releasing many political prisoners and halting the country's controversial large Chinese-led hydro-power project. The developments that followed included Myanmar's appointment to chair ASEAN in 2014, improved relations with the US, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi – his 2015 general election rival – from house arrest, and the reinstatement of major opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD) in the by-election held on 1 April 2012.[3]

Early life

Thein Sein was born in Kyonku, a small Irrawaddy delta village near Hainggyi Island in what is now Ngapudaw Township to Maung Phyo (father) and Khin Nyunt (mother) in 1944 during the Japanese occupation.[4] He was the youngest of three children. His parents were landless farmers, and his father made a living carrying cargo at the river jetty and weaving bamboo mats.[4][5] Thein Sein's father Maung Phyo became a Buddhist monk 10 years after his wife's death, and spent his remaining years as a monk.[4]

Military career

Thein Sein graduated from the 9th intake of the Defence Services Academy with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1968, becoming a second lieutenant afterward.[4][6] Throughout Thein Sein's four-decade long military career, he was considered a bureaucrat, not a combat soldier. In 1988, he served as a major for Sagaing Division's 55th Light Infantry Division and later served as a commander for Sagaing Division's 89th Infantry Battalion in Kalay Township. The following year, he studied at the Command and General Staff College in Kalaw, Shan State.

By 1991, he had returned to Yangon, after being promoted to the rank of colonel and 1st Grade General Staff Officer in the War Office. He was then promoted to brigadier general, but remained at his position in the War Office, which marked the first time a brigadier general was promoted to General Staff Officer. In 1993, he was recruited as the commander of Yangon Division's Military Operations Command 4 in Hmawbi. Three years later in 1996, he was appointed to lead the new Triangle Regional Military Command in Kyaingtong, Shan State, serving this role for another three years (1998–2001).[6]

In 1998, he became a member of the State Peace and Development Council and was appointed as Secretary-2 in 2001.[7][8] He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general that year.[9] After General Khin Nyunt was deposed and General Soe Win became Prime Minister in 2004, he was promoted to Secretary-1 and promoted to General in late 2004.[8]

Prime Minister

Thein Sein and Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva during a state visit to Naypyidaw on 11 October 2010.

Thein Sein was appointed in April 2007 by the nation's ruling military junta[10] as interim prime minister, replacing General Soe Win, who was undergoing medical treatment for leukaemia.[11][12] He was formally appointed as General Soe Win's permanent successor on 24 October 2007 after Soe Win's death on 12 October 2007.[13]

He held the position of first secretary in the ruling State Peace and Development Council junta. He was the country's fourth-highest ranking general,[14] and also served as the chairman of the government-sponsored National Convention Convening Commission.[15] Thein Sein carried out high-level negotiations with Bangladesh and Cambodia.[11][12]

In 2007, sometime after his official appointment as prime minister, he was promoted to the rank of general from lieutenant general.[16] On his first official visit outside Myanmar as prime minister, Thein Sein carried out high-level negotiations with Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.[17][18][19] In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, he led the National Disaster Preparedness Central Committee as chairman and was criticised for the government's systematic blocking of relief efforts.[6]


Election and appointment

On 29 April 2010, he retired from the military, along with 22 other military officials, to lead the Union Solidarity and Development Party as a civilian.[20] During the 2010 general election, he was head of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which contested in a controversial election and won the overwhelming majority of seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. Thein Sein ran against National Unity Party candidate Kyaw Aye during the election, contesting a Pyithu Hluttaw seat to represent the constituents of Naypyidaw Union Territory's Zabuthiri Township. He purportedly won 91.2% of the votes (65,620).[21]

On 4 February 2011, he was elected by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw's Presidential Electoral College as the next President of Myanmar, becoming the country's first non-interim civilian president in 49 years. Tin Aung Myint Oo and Sai Mauk Kham were named as the new vice-presidents.[22] He was sworn in on 30 March 2011 alongside the two vice-presidents and the newly elected parliament.[23]

Regional policy

In the first month of his presidency, he sought the support of ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan to support Myanmar's bid to chair the ASEAN Summit in 2014.[24] As of July 2011, the government has formed a planning committee led by foreign affairs minister Wunna Maung Lwin.[25] In his presidency, Myanmar took the ASEAN chairmanship in 2014. ASEAN summit was held in Naypyidaw in the same year.[26]

Domestic policy

Some have considered Thein Sein as a moderate because he was willing to engage with Aung San Suu Kyi; he had a high-profile meeting with her in Naypyidaw on 19 August 2011.[27] On 17 August 2011, he was quoted by the state newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar as saying:[28]

We will make reviews to make sure that Myanmar [Burmese] citizens living abroad for some reasons can return home if they have not committed any crimes. And if a Myanmar citizen in a foreign country who committed crimes applies for returning home to serve terms, we will show our benevolent attitude in dealing with his case.

Various news sources interpreted his suggestion as an invitation for overseas Burmese citizens to return to their country of origin and help rebuild the Burmese economy.[29]

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Burma's President Thein Sein in Naypyitaw, 1 December 2011.

In 2012, Thein Sein proposed that the minority Rohingya ethnic group, which had lived in Burma for hundreds of years, be "resettled" abroad, a proposal the United Nations was quick to object to.[30] Thein Sein has also supported domestic policies that label Rohingya as "non-citizens".[citation needed] He has said that the 2012 Rakhine State riots "has nothing to do with race or religion."[31]

Thein Sein meets US President Barack Obama in Rangoon, 19 November 2012

2012 cabinet reshuffle

On 27 August 2012, Thein Sein announced a major cabinet reshuffle of 9 ministers and 15 deputy ministers, to consolidate the authority of his office by removing hardliner ministers and replacing them with political allies.[32] Among the more prominent changes was the transfer of Kyaw Hsan from the post of Minister for Information to Minister of Cooperatives, and the appointment of Aung Min, Tin Naing Thein and Soe Thein, all former lieutenants under Thein Sein, to the posts of Minister of the President's Office.[32]

Union Solidarity and Development Party

On 16 October 2012, Thein Sein was re-elected as the chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) at the USDP's first party conference in Naypyidaw.[33] This is in direct contradiction to the 2008 Constitution of Myanmar, which states:[34]

If the President or the Vice-Presidents are members of a political party, they shall not take part in its party activities during their term of office from the day of their election.

According to the constitution, he was technically barred from taking part in party activities during his term of office. Because of mounting criticism over his dual role, Thein Sein handed over the chairman position of party to Shwe Mann on 1 May 2013. But Thein Sein will continue to play a leadership role within the ruling party and did not disqualify himself from consideration as the party's presidential candidate of 2015 election.[35][36][37]


A day after Thein Sein left office, the Democratic Voices of Burma published a news article that the ex-president would be ordaining as a monk on 1 April 2016 for a few days, a tradition for Burmese Buddhist men. According to the DVB, a "spokesperson close to the President" refused to disclose where he would be ordained, but it would be in a "small, peaceful town".[38]

According to a Facebook post, he was temporarily ordained under Ashin Nandamalabhivamsa in a monastery in Pyin Oo Lwin under the monastic name U Santidhamma.[39][40] Thein Sein has since lived in quiet retirement, maintaining his silence following the 2021 Myanmar coup d'état.[41]

Thein Sein appeared again during an interview in April 2023, stating that the former military regime isolated the country for 20 years and that he personally negotiated for an end to sanctions during his presidency.[42] [43]

Personal life

Thein Sein is married to Khin Khin Win. The couple have three daughters.[4] One of his daughters, Yin Thuzar Thein, is married to military captain Han Win Aung.[44] He suffers from heart disease and uses a pacemaker.[45][46]


  1. ^ "Myanmar names prime minister as new president". Radio France Internationale. 4 February 2011. Archived from the original on 8 February 2023. Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  2. ^ Ba Kaung (15 August 2011). "Will Naypyidaw's Olive Branch Bear Fruit?". The Irrawaddy. Archived from the original on 21 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  3. ^ "One Year of Myanmar's Thein Sein Government: Background and Outlook of Reforms". KUDO Toshihiro. Archived from the original on 6 December 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e Keller, Bill (30 September 2012). "A Conversation with President U Thein Sein of Myanmar". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
  5. ^ Fuller, Thomas (14 March 2012). "A Most Unlikely Liberator in Myanmar". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "President Thein Sein". Alternative Asean Network on Burma. Archived from the original on 31 July 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
  7. ^ "THEIN SEIN profile". Alternative Asean Network on Burma. Archived from the original on 3 August 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Lt-Gen Thein Sein is new PM". Myanmar Times. 29 October 2007. Archived from the original on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  9. ^ Tun Tun (3 February 2011). "Profiles of vice president nominees". Mizzma News. Archived from the original on 18 August 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Countries Me-My". Archived from the original on 21 January 2020. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  11. ^ a b Burmese junta choose stand-in PM Archived 27 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine,; retrieved 20 May 2007.
  12. ^ a b Burmese Junta Tips New Prime Minister Archived 20 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 20 May 2007.
  13. ^ Myanmar appoints new PM, Xinhua; retrieved 24 October 2007.
  14. ^ Myanmar paramount leader not nominated for president: MPs Archived 6 March 2020 at the Wayback Machine, Reuters; retrieved 1 February 2011.
  15. ^ Work coordination meeting of National Convention Convening Commission, Work Committee and Management Committee held Archived 23 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, The New Light of Myanmar; retrieved 20 April 2004.
  16. ^ Myanmar PM to visit Laos, Vietnam, Xinhua. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  17. ^ Burma's PM visits Vietnam Archived 14 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Associated Press via The Age. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  18. ^ Laos, Myanmar set to enhance relations, Xinhua; retrieved 11 November 2007.
  19. ^ "Myanmar's prime minister visits Cambodia to garner support against sanctions". Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  20. ^ Wai Moe (5 May 2010). "Tight Censorship on Reporting USDP". The Irrawaddy. Archived from the original on 2 March 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  21. ^ "People's parliament candidates in Zabuthiri constituency (Naypyitaw Union Territory)". Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  22. ^ Burma ex-Prime Minister Thein Sein named new president Archived 19 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine, BBC, 4 February 2011.
  23. ^ "President sworn in, junta dissolved- DVB Multimedia Group". 30 March 2011. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  24. ^ "Burma as Asean Chair in 2014? Think Again". The Irrawaddy. 3 May 2011. Archived from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  25. ^ Nyi Thit (25 July 2011). "Burma organizes committee to host Asean Summit". Archived from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  26. ^ "ASEAN Summit 2014, Myanmar". Archived from the original on 13 May 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  27. ^ "Aung San Suu Kyi meets Burma's president Thein Sein". The Guardian. 19 August 2011. Archived from the original on 8 September 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  28. ^ Ko Htwe (18 August 2011). "'Welcome Home' Greeted with Skepticism". The Irrawaddy. Archived from the original on 21 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  29. ^ "Burmese President Invites Return of Citizens Abroad". Voice of America. 17 August 2011. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  30. ^ "UN refugee chief rejects call to resettle Rohingya". The Huffington Post. 12 July 2012. Archived from the original on 8 August 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  31. ^ Voice of America, Burma: Sectarian Violence Not About Race or Religion, 10 August 2012, Archived 17 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ a b Fuller, Thomas (27 August 2012). "President of Myanmar Reshuffles His Cabinet". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 September 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  33. ^ Wang Yuanyuan (16 October 2012). "President U Thein Sein re-elected as Myanmar's ruling party leader". Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  34. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar" (PDF). Government of Myanmar. 2008. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  35. ^ "Thein Sein resigns as chairman of Burma's ruling party". DVB News. 2 May 2013. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  36. ^ Win Ko Ko Latt (6 May 2013). "Speaker confirmed as new USDP chairman". The Myanmar Times. Archived from the original on 10 October 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  37. ^ WENG, LAWI (3 May 2013). "Thein Sein Still a USDP Leader, May Be Party's 2015 Presidential Pick: Lawmaker". The irrawaddy. Archived from the original on 10 October 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  38. ^ "Ex-president Thein Sein to ordain as monk: report- DVB Multimedia Group". DVB Multimedia Group. Archived from the original on 4 April 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  39. ^ "Myanmar Ex-president Mr. U Thein Sein... - Bhikkhu Bhaddiya | Facebook". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  40. ^ "Burma's Former President Thein Sein Joins Monkhood". The Irrawaddy. 5 April 2016. Archived from the original on 13 August 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  41. ^ "Analysis | Former President and General U Thein Sein Paints While Myanmar Burns". The Irrawaddy. 3 June 2022. Archived from the original on 4 September 2022. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  42. ^ The messages conveyed through the unusual photos. Burma News International: Myanmar Peace Monitor. Issue 98. March 22-28, 2023. pp.5-6
  43. ^ Ex-Myanmar Leader U Thein Sein's Meetings With Foreign Dignitaries Raise Eyebrows. The Irrawaddy. April 27, 2023.
  44. ^ Min Lwin (5 February 2009). "Burmese PM's Daughter Camera Shy on Her Wedding Day". The Irrawaddy. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  45. ^ "Profile: Burmese leader Thein Sein". BBC News. 4 February 2011. Archived from the original on 20 August 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  46. ^ McCoy, Clifford (4 May 2011). "Man in the mirror in Myanmar". Asia Times. Archived from the original on 5 May 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.((cite news)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
Political offices Preceded bySoe Win Prime Minister of Myanmar 2007–2010 VacantTitle next held byMin Aung Hlaing (2021) Preceded byThan Shweas Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar President of Myanmar 2011–2016 Succeeded byHtin Kyaw Diplomatic posts Preceded byHassanal Bolkiah Chairperson of ASEAN 2014 Succeeded byNajib Razak
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Thein Sein
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