RANGOON — A Burmese government spokesperson has denied a report claiming that the former head of the country’s military regime is enjoying a monthly pension of 10 million kyat, or more than US$10,000.
Snr-Gen Than Shwe was the highest-ranking member of the junta until it handed power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011.
Last week, local Burmese weekly the Myanmar Herald reported what it says are details of the “pensions and benefits” received by Burma’s former military leaders, including Than Shwe and his 2nd in command, Deputy Snr-Gen Maung Aye.
“Since March 31, 2011, the Pension Department [in the Finance Ministry] allowed Snr-Gen Than Shwe 10 million kyat per month and Deputy Snr-Gen Maung Aye was allowed 8 million kyat,” the Burmese-language weekly said, without giving a specific source for the information. It also said Than Shwe was paid a one-off gratuity of 230 million kyat, about $230,000.
Ye Htut, the deputy information minister and spokesman for President Thein Sein, denied that the former ruler’s pension was as generous as reported. “It’s not true,” he told The Irrawaddy by email. “Senior General Than Shwe only enjoys his pension and gratuity—based on his years in service—like any other military service personnel, since he retired.”
But Ye Htut declined to say how much the retired dictator was drawing as a pension. “The amount you said is not true. I can’t disclose the exact amount as it’s a personal matter,” he said.
Than Shwe joined the Burmese military in 1953, serving for 58 years before he passed the reigns to Thein Sein, himself a former general reportedly hand-picked by his predecessor. Since retirement, Than Shwe has kept a low profile, but is widely suspected to remain influential over Burma’s government.
The Irrawaddy understands that before his retirement, Than Shwe’s salary was 1.4 million kyat per month. Based on his years of service, the former supremo would have been entitled to a gratuity of more than 81 million kyat.
A retired Lieutenant- Colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his pension was worth just 150,000 kyat (about $150) per month, with a gratuity of 7 million kyat. The former soldier said Than Shwe’s gratuity would likely be in the tens of millions of kyat, based on his senior rank and years of service.
The Myanmar Herald also reported that parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann, who was a deputy senior general and ranked third in the military regime up to 2011, enjoys a pension of 5 million kyat.
According to the Burmese Constitution, Thein Sein is entitled to a monthly salary of 5 million kyat.
Pe Than, a parliamentarian from Arakan State, said it was unlikely that the government would have approved such a large pension and gratuity for Than Shwe, and that no such payments had been approved by Parliament.
“If they allowed it without mentioning it in the budget, it’s an act of dishonesty—something they shouldn’t do,” he said.