Myanmar's president reshuffled his cabinet on Monday, his office announced, in a long-awaited move seen as promoting reform-minded allies and sidelining a prominent hardliner.
Former general Thein Sein awarded four of his key ministers the joint role of minister of the president's office in what his aides said was a bid to speed up the reform process.
They include Railway Minister Aung Min, who has played a leading role in ceasefire talks with ethnic rebels, as well as Finance Minister Hla Tun and Industry Minister Soe Thein, key figures in economic reforms.
"They will work for the president. So the president will only need to make final decisions and he will have more time to work on the important matters," said a senior government official who did not want to be named, adding that their replacements would be announced later.
Since taking office last year, Thein Sein has overseen a number of dramatic changes such as the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.
But there have been signs of tensions between reform-minded members of the government and conservatives opposed to rapid political change.
The country's hardline Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, who for years oversaw the regime's often-fraught relations with the media, has been moved to the seemingly obscure role of minister of cooperatives.
He will head a little-known ministry whose goal, according to its website, is to "promote cooperative socio economic well being".
Labour Minister Aung Kyi -- the former junta's official liaison to Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest -- will replace him.
The move came a week after Myanmar said it had abolished pre-publication press censorship that was a hallmark of life under the generals who ran the country for almost half a century until last year.
It also follows the appointment earlier this month of the navy chief to replace a regime hardliner as one of the country's vice presidents, in a move that was also seen as strengthening government reformers.
Admiral Nyan Tun, 58, who has a reputation as a political moderate, was selected by the military personnel who make up one quarter of the legislature and have the right to choose one of the two vice presidents.
His predecessor Tin Aung Myint Oo -- a renowned hardliner with close links to ex-junta chief Than Shwe -- resigned in July ostensibly due to ill health, fanning rumours of a power struggle between regime moderates and conservatives.
There had been speculation that Suu Kyi might be offered a cabinet post but she herself has played down such as possibility because by law she would have to give up her seat in parliament.© ANP/AFP