hein Sein has been the polite, relatively untainted face of Burma’s military government for several years.
When the previous prime minister, Soe Win, was ailing, Thein Sein was made acting prime minister in May 2007.
Confirmed in the post in October that year, he has become the public front of a secretive regime, representing it at meetings of the Association of South East Asian Nations and the United Nations.
He has also been a central, albeit low-key, figure in the recent political changes directed by Senior General Than Shwe.
In April last year, he took what analysts have described as his total obedience to Than Shwe to new heights, dropping his military ranks and uniform to form a political party.
It was Thein Sein who applied to register the United Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which dominated the elections held in November and has sweeping control of the new parliament.
At first glance, his elevation to the country’s presidency would mark the greatest reward for a career of total loyalty to the senior leader.
But analysts are convinced that Thein Sein was unwilling to take the top position, mainly because he is in his mid-60s and has a heart condition which requires him to have a pacemaker.
Analysts say he also appears to be relatively incorrupt.
“From our investigations so far, he and his family don’t appear to have any record of major corruption,” said Aung Zaw, editor of the Thailand-based Irrawaddy magazine.
Thein Sein is a graduate of the elite military school, the Defence Services Academy and went on to command an infantry battalion in Sagaing Division.
He then served under Than Shwe when the latter was the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
He commanded military operations in Rangoon, and led the newly-formed Triangle Regional Military Command in Kengtung, eastern Shan State, in 1996.
He was made first secretary of the State Peace and Development Council after the downfall of the former intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt in 2004.
He also chaired the National Convention which drafted the country’s new constitution.
“He won’t rock the boat,” said Aung Zaw. “He is not a fire-breathing dragon, so he doesn’t pose any threat to Than Shwe – who will continue to exercise absolute power.”
The senior general needs an acceptable face for the world as part of what he has described as the country’s democratic transition.
Burma is to host the South East Asian Games in 2013, and will chair the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in 2014, heightening that need, analysts said.
Thein Sein is loyal, generally quiet, yet seen as confident at international gatherings.
“He will follow whatever Than Shwe says,” Aung Zaw said.