Ex-president becomes monk - for 5 days

Former Myanmar president Thein Sein (right) is expected to lead a monastic life for five days.
Former Myanmar president Thein Sein (right) is expected to lead a monastic life for five days.PHOTO: MYANMAR MINISTRY OF INFORMATION FACEBOOK

YANGON • The retired junta general who steered Myanmar's last five years of reforms has temporarily become a monk, according to state media, days after he ceded power to a new government led by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party.

Pictures shared widely on social media showed a shaven-headed Thein Sein wearing his trademark spectacles and draped in the deep maroon robes of the Buddhist clergy.

The state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper said that the 70-year-old had entered a monastery in the central town of Pyin Oo Lwin on Monday for a five-day stint, taking the monk title "U Thandidamma".

The paper said: "Those close to U Thein Sein said he will practise meditation during a temporary monkhood of about five days."

It added that he had promised Buddhist elders he would be ordained as a monk once he finished his role as president.

Spending periods in the monkhood is common for Buddhist men in Myanmar, where young boys are expected to spend at least three days as novices in monasteries during their childhood.

Mr Thein Sein handed over power to President Htin Kyaw last week. The former general is expected to continue to lead his army-backed party, which is now in opposition after Ms Suu Kyi's party won landmark November polls in a landslide.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-president becomes monk - for 5 days'. Print Edition | Subscribe