Burma’s Former Supremo Still ‘Interested in Politics’

 Snr-Gen Than Shwe greets guests at a state dinner for Burma’s Armed Forces Day on March 27, 2011, shortly before his retirement. (Photo: AP)

Snr-Gen Than Shwe greets guests at a state dinner for Burma’s Armed Forces Day on March 27, 2011, shortly before his retirement. (Photo: AP)

RANGOON—Former military supremo Than Shwe still follows Burma’s politics with interest, but he no longer seeks any direct influence over political developments, according to a senior official of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), who makes visits to the ex-general.

In a recent interview with The Irrawaddy in the capital Naypyidaw, USDP vice-chairman Htay Oo said Than Shwe is in fine health and peacefully retired, although he does follow politics in Burma.

“Of course, he is interested in politics as he was the leader of a country. It is certain that he wants the [political] system that he established to be successful,” Htay Oo said of his former boss.

“I visit him sometimes and he lives really peacefully,” he said. “It is not true that he does things behind the scenes. We [only] talk about party-related issues—people’s opinions and such.”

Sen-Gen Than Shwe was the leader of Burma’s junta regime from 1992 to 2011, when he headed the Burmese military and the State Peace and Development Council. His reign was marked by widespread repression, human rights abuses and wars with Burma’s ethnic groups.

He dissolved the council and resigned to make way for his hand-picked successor President Thein Sein, who has since led Burma’s quasi-civilian government. Vice-Senior General Min Aung Hlaing took over control of the military.

Since his resignation there has been much speculation as to whether the reclusive Than Shwe, now almost 80 years old, still exerts influence on the government and the military. In particular, after the army seemed to defy Thein Sein’s order to only engage in defensive actions in the Kachin conflict in northern Burma.

The ruling USDP consists of former military leaders who shed their uniforms and took seats in parliaments in 2010, after planning the transition to a quasi-civilian government.

Burma’s powerful army also exerts direct political control, as its officers fill 25 percent of parliamentary seats.

Free and democratic elections for the parliament are planned in 2015, when Burma is supposed to become a full multi-party democracy.

USDP vice-chairman Htay Oo said that Than Shwe continues to follow this political transition, as he had personally planned the roadmap from military rule to quasi-civilian government, from where it should lead to the 2015 elections.

“In fact, he systematically managed the country and handed it over to those who could carry on and lead it forward. He has done so and is happy now,” he said.

“He has changed the system, so what we have to do is to make it flourish,” Htay Oo added.

Htay Oo said Than Shwe had no desire or means to influence current political developments, adding that the senior-general only wants to see Burma reach democracy as he had planned it.

“We don’t have any procedure to change [politics]. We don’t have any policy to change it either,” he claimed.

“We now have a multi-party democracy system, a parliament and a government. What do we need to change? What we need to do is to make this system stronger and based on that, to look for means that contribute to people’s benefit,” Htay Oo said.

“He [Than Shwe] left this country in hands of those he believes will do their best,” he said.

The former military leader has not been seen in public since retiring in 2011.

Htay Oo said Than Shwe was enjoying a quiet life and made no trips and received no visitors, other than a few people who worked with him during his reign.

“The senior-general doesn’t go out, make trips or meet with many people. He doesn’t even meet with us regularly either. We only visit him when we are free,” the USDP vice-chairman said.

8 Responses to Burma’s Former Supremo Still ‘Interested in Politics’

  1. Why shouldn’t he be not interested in politics? Before he kicked the bucket he would have more fears of not following his fellow dictators – Pinochet, Charles Taylor, Milosevic, Pol Pot to name a few. He also have two choices for his miserable exit – Milosevic Way or Pol Pot Way. Both will promote Daw Kyaing Kyaing to ‘Widow to the power of 2’. If it’s going to be as how Htay Oo wish then Buddha’s law of karma would be turned on it’s head. The vultures seems to say they cannot wait for long, perching and waiting from Shwedagon.

  2. “He has changed the system, so what we have to do is to make it flourish.” Htay Oo you are in la, la, land. Get real – it is a changing world with changing dynamics. The Spring Uprisings in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Syria are death knells for dictators; can Than Shwe be far behind? He would have met the same fate as Gadaffi: death in disgrace. So stop playing His Masters Voice and get on with the program; have balls to tell your master that he is wrong unless you want to be the court eunuch all your life.

  3. Mein Fuhrer,

    Your excellent plan is working ever so well it brought tears to my eyes. Your legacy, Your Honor, is assured with the willing cooperation and collaboration of the Lady (not Iron but of clay feet). Your smart little ruse is so brilliant beyond belief it’s true genius. All those foreigners are falling for it, knowingly or unknowingly. Long may you Kyaukse Mintaragyi Pra reign over us.

  4. He is closely monitoring the political scenario and sleepless. Because his Nargis Constitution was extremely poorly drafted. He knows that the people do not accept his Nargis Constitution. He takes sleeping pills every night. He always has nightmares. Many nights, he visions Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi’s last days. He is now tasting hell which he will inherit for eternity.

  5. No, not only interested; his is in full control of U Thein Sein Cabinet, Hm ! No wonder he wouldn’t move away from Naypyidaw upon retirement, Huh !

  6. If rapist than shwe is interested in politics , give the opinions on Panglong agreement, Naric-than shwe 2008 constitution , reason for killing monks, hydro power projects with China and copper mining issue. Does rapist than shwe will offer DASSK the next president of Burma as well as the commander in chief in Burma army ?.

  7. For sure, Than Shwe’s interesting politic is for his own interest. If something suddenly unexpectedly changed in Army and Government and then he and his family can have time to fleeing to China.
    Frequently Htay Oo meeting with Than Shwe is showing Htay Oo has to report current affair to Than Shwe. Obviously USDP is under guiding of Than Shwe.
    How many spies are working for ex dictatorship Than Shwe in USDP, Government and Military? That’s a vital survival for Than Shwe and his family.
    If we put Than Shwe and his family in the jail as he did to Ne Win and Ne Win family and then it will be easier for President U Thein Sein to do his job properly.

  8. There is one safeguard generally known to be wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots – suspicion.

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