Myanmar President Htin Kyaw has stepped down saying he is “taking a rest.” Multiple reports that the head of state had been experiencing ill health were previously dismissed by the government.
The state counselor’s office said Htin Kyaw was leaving office to recuperate after undergoing multiple treatments and surgery.
“Yes, he has resigned. He just had an operation but it was successful. We will now start the process for electing the next president within seven working days according to the constitution,” a government spokesperson, Zaw Htay, told The Guardian.
Htin Kyaw is the first Myanmar president, since the 1962 coup, to not be connected to the military.
De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi was instrumental in the selection of the 71-year-old president, who is also a childhood friend. Htin Kyaw was also an executive officer for the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charitable organization named after Suu Kyi's late mother.
Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from being president because she is the parent of children born outside of Myanmar. The president is resigning in the wake of an international spotlight being placed on Myanmar and the de facto leader, in particular.
Myanmar's Suu Kyi has come under intense pressure to address violence carried out by the country's military in the Rakhine state. Htin Kyaw is a longstanding ally of the embattled de facto chief.
The United Nations labeled the acts carried out in the Rakhine state as having the “hallmarks of genocide.” The Myanmar military, however, blames the violence on members of the Rohingya militant group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee Myanmar and cross over to neighboring Bangladesh.
The Myanmar government has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and pledged to begin repatriating the Rohingya.
So far, only 374 people have been allowed to return.