Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Offers Condolences to Former Dictator Than Shwe

By The Irrawaddy 16 June 2019

YANGON—Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi sent a letter of condolence to former dictator Than Shwe, who was responsible for putting her under house arrest for more than a decade, on the death of his son-in-law.

Ex-Brigadier General Thein Naing, died of a gastric-related disease on Thursday in Naypyitaw. The 63-year old is widowed by Daw Khin Pyone Shwe, one of the dictator’s eight children.

Addressing the one-time military leader as “Uncle”, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in her hand-written letter sent on Friday that her heart-felt condolences go out to the family and the widow.

She signed off by saying “Praying for the well-being of you and your family,” according to the dictator’s grandson Nay Shwe Thway Aung, who posted a photograph of the letter on his Facebook page with the comment, “Thank You So Much.”

The last time the State Counselor met U Than Shwe was in December 2015, a month after the Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy’s landslide electoral victory in the general election. During the two-hour long meeting in Naypyitaw, the former dictator called her “the future leader of Myanmar” and pledged to “support her” and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she held no grudge against him. The former dictator put the Nobel laureate under house arrest for more than a decade while he was in power from 1992 to 2011. Despite his departure from politics, he is believed to continue to have influence in the country’s affairs, especially on the current military leadership. The former military regime leader, who has rarely been seen in public since his retirement, attended the funeral of his son-in-law in Naypyitaw.

In the pictures of the funeral, where many current military senior officials including the military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing were present, a visibly frail U Than Shwe was seen flanked by his grandson Nay Shwe Thway Aung and vice military chief deputy Snr-Gen Soe Win, who was helping his former boss to stand up by holding his arm. The death of his son-in-law came at a time when rumors have been circulating that the 84-year-old former dictator was in ill health.

The State Counselor’s condolences attracted mixed reactions on Facebook, the country’s most popular social media platform. While many saw the letter as an act of civilized behavior and not holding grudges against the ex-dictator’s family, some criticized Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for expressing her sorrow for the family while heading a government that is slow to help its citizens, such as those displaced by fighting between government troops and ethnic armed groups.

Regarding the letter, the country’s former Information Minister U Ye Htut wrote on his Facebook page that the actor and actress have to pay respect on stage to the “master” when needed in spite of the audience they have, suggesting that for all the popular support and authority they are enjoying, the NLD government still can’t ignore the former dictator.

Unsurprisingly, his post has attracted criticism, for what some say ridicules and undermines Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s condolences.

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