YANGON - Myanmar's president has appointed an opposition lawmaker to his cabinet, state media said Wednesday, giving a foothold to a political rival in his reformist government for the first time. Tin Shwe, an upper house member of parliament from the National Democratic Force (NDF), has been drafted in as deputy minister of hotels and tourism by President Thein Sein, state-mouthpiece the New Light of Myanmar reported. The decision prompted the NDF, a splinter group from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, to insist that it would not go easy on the government now that its man is in the cabinet.
"There was no negotiation with the party and we didn't know about it in advance," NDF chairman Khin Maung Swe told AFP, adding the party nonetheless supported the appointment. "We will continue to oppose whatever does not benefit the people... There is no plan not to oppose the government just because one of us has become a minister." Tin Shwe, a 67-year-old doctor, will now step down as an MP to carry out his duties in cabinet, leaving the NDF with five serving lawmakers spread across both parliament houses in Naypyidaw. The number is fewer than half the seats they won in disputed 2010 national elections that sparked the bitter split with Suu Kyi, whose party boycotted the polls, saying the rules were unfair. Thein Sein has overseen sweeping reforms of the once-authoritarian junta-ruled nation, including Suu Kyi's election to parliament in by-elections held in April 2012 that gave her party more than 40 seats in parliament.