YANGON, Myanmar, April 28 (UPI) -- Myanmar's prime minister is among several senior military leaders who have stepped down to run in national elections this year.
Prime Minister Lt. Gen. Thein Sein will run as a civilian in Myanmar's first elections in 20 years. Although a date for polling hasn't been set, October is thought to be the month.
There has been no official announcement about the resignations, numbering more than 20 and including many mid-ranking officers, in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper that acts as the mouthpiece of the junta.
But unnamed military sources have confirmed the resignations, a report by the India-based expatriate news agency Mizzima said.
The list of resignations includes Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Maj. Gen. Htay Oo, Rail Transport Minister Maj. Gen. Aung Min, Commerce Minister Brig. Gen. Tin Naing Thein and Deputy Home Minister Brig. Gen. Phone Swe.
More resignations are likely in the coming weeks, the military source told the Mizzima agency.
Head of state Senior Gen. Than Shwe, 73 and in power since 1992, wasn't on the list. Questions have been asked about his health in the past two years because he rarely makes public appearances. He has been thought to have intestinal cancer.
One of Shwe's last appearances was at the end of March when he stood to attention alone on a dais saluting rows of marching soldiers during the National Armed Forces Day parade in the new capital city Nay Pyi Taw.
Even with a national election, the military has reserved 25 percent of the seats in parliament for their own appointees. This has led critics to call the election undemocratic. Now, with former military leaders running as civilians, the military could effectively swell their ranks in parliament leaving less room for maneuver by any civilian government.
Some analysts have said the military might create its own party for the elections based on or within the Union Solidarity and Development Association, the military's mass-participation organization.
An election would be the first since 1990 when the National League for Democracy Party won a landslide victory. The generals never allowed the NLD and its leader, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to take office. Suu Kyi has been under some form of detention for most the past 20 years and remains under house arrest.
A law was passed in March disallowing people with criminal convictions from holding office, which means Suu Kyi is barred from political life. Her party didn't register for the election, a position she supported.
Suu Kyi's situation and that of other political prisoners has led many countries including the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the United Nations, to question the outcome of an election as being anywhere near democratic in nature.
Mark Farmaner, director of the pro-democracy group Burma Campaign based in the United Kingdom, said the election is basically a process to move from a military dictatorship to a civilian one. Whatever the outcome of an election, the government will be wearing suits rather than uniforms but Shwe will remain in charge of the country, he said.