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Myanmar Gets First Civilian Government In Decades

Myanmar's newly sworn in Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi laughs along with top military officers, as her country marks a new step toward democracy Wednesday. Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images

Myanmar's newly sworn in Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi laughs along with top military officers, as her country marks a new step toward democracy Wednesday.

Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images

Former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi is now in charge of part of Myanmar's government, after a trusted ally in her party was sworn in as president Wednesday. Despite the change in leadership, Myanmar's military still holds significant power.

Suu Kyi was just steps away from her aide, U Htin Kyaw, when he was sworn in as president. Prohibited from seeking her country's top post, she now becomes Myanmar's foreign minister and will head other ministries, as well.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports:

"In a speech before parliament, incoming President U Htin Kyaw made it clear that he takes orders from Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is constitutionally barred from the presidency, despite her party's landslide electoral victory in November.

"U Htin Kyaw emphasized that his party's goal is to change the constitution, which gives the military an automatic quarter of the seats in parliament."

Suu Kyi has said she'll have sway over decisions made by Htin Kyaw and by her National League for Democracy party. Despite the apparent breakthrough of a civilian government taking power in Myanmar, the majority party is shut out of Myanmar's police and security forces, which remain under the military's control.

Myanmar News reports that "questions remain if Suu Kyi could yet become president after amending section 59(f) of the charter over the five-year term of the new government."

As Anthony reported earlier this month:

"Suu Kyi met with military leaders several times to try to persuade them to change the country's military-drafted constitution. It bars her from becoming president because her children are foreign citizens. But the generals wouldn't budge."