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Last Updated: Monday, 25 August, 2003, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Cabinet reshuffle in Burma

By Larry Jagan
BBC Burma analyst

There has been a major cabinet reshuffle in Burma.

The powerful intelligence chief, General Khin Nyunt, has been promoted to prime minister, while the country's most powerful military leader, General Than Shwe, remains as head of state.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest provoked international outrage
The cabinet changes come after months of debate within the top of the military leadership over what to do with the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in protective custody now for nearly three months.

Diplomats in Rangoon believe the cabinet changes may mean an early release for her.

General Khin Nyunt - the country's third most powerful military chief - will now effectively take over the day-to-day running of the country.

Until now General Than Shwe has held that post.

Another five ministers and two deputy ministers have been retired.

International outrage

State radio and television said the changes were aimed at making the government more effective and efficient.

In effect, this is a promotion for General Khin Nyunt - the intelligence chief whom diplomats regard as a pragmatist who sees the need for economic and political reform and wants to engage the international community.

In the past few months, Burma has been increasingly isolated as international outrage grew over the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Both the US and Europe have stiffened economic sanctions against Rangoon and demanded her immediate release.

Diplomats in Rangoon believe this may be the first stage in a larger process of reform, with the generals taking off their uniforms and forming a civilian government.

At the very least, it may lead to Aung San Suu Kyi being released in the next few weeks.

The BBC's Larry Jagan
"Burma's government is being completely overhauled"

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