RANGOON — Burma’s former President Thein Sein has shed his formal attire and his hair to join the Buddhist monkhood.
Thein Sein’s ordination as a monk took place Monday, officials said, four days after he presided over a historic transition of power to the former opposition party headed by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Photographs circulating on social media show the former president, with his head shaved and dressed in a saffron robe, beside a fellow monk.
The Ministry of Information released a statement on its Facebook page Monday saying Thein Sein will spend five days at the Dhamma Dipati Monastery outside Pyin Oo Lwin, a scenic hill town near Mandalay in central Burma.
A temporary stint at a monastery is common in the predominantly Buddhist country, where boys are expected to ordain as novice monks at some point in their childhood and then return later in adulthood.
Thein Sein himself has not spoken publicly about his choice to temporarily become a monk but the official statement indicated he has been considering it at least since January when he attended a Buddhist conference in Myanmar.
“Recently, the country’s most respected monk, Sitagu, urged ex-President Thein Sein to enter into the Buddhist monkhood when he attended the World Buddhist Conference,” the statement from the Ministry of Information said. “Thein Sein told Sitagu that he was busy with the duties of a president and promised that he would be ordained as soon as he finished his term as president.”
Thein Sein, a former general, was installed as president for a five-year term in 2011 to head a nominally civilian government after the military ended a half century of military rule.
In November, the country held its first free election in decades, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.
Thein Sein presided over the transfer of power to new President Htin Kyaw, who was handpicked by Suu Kyi, in a ceremony last Thursday.