Top junta figure to lead 'civilian' government

Burma's new parliament has named a key junta figure as its President, ensuring that the country's first "civilian" government in decades will be dominated by the army that has brutally suppressed dissent.

The appointment of Thein Sein, 65, was the latest step in the country's self-declared transition to democracy following elections in November, but critics – including the recently freed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi – have condemned the process as a sham aimed at cementing military rule. "This is not surprising. It is what we had expected," the Nobel Peace laureate told reporters.

Ms Suu Kyi's party won the previous elections in 1990, but was blocked at the time from taking power by the military. The party boycotted November's vote, calling it unfair. The military's delegates in parliament and their civilian allies hold an 80 per cent majority in the new legislature, which hand-picked the new President from a pool of three named on Thursday.

Thein Sein was the most prominent of the three and seen as a shoo-in for the presidency.