Burma’s former military strongman, retired Snr-Gen Than Shwe, is in good health despite rumors to the contrary, according to his daughter.
Speaking to the Rangoon-based journal Myanmar Newsweek last week, Khin Pyone Shwe denied that her father had recently been treated for a serious illness.
She made the remarks while attending a ceremony to mark the opening of a new temple in Rangoon’s Kyauktadan Township on Sept. 30. Other members of Than Shwe’s immediate family were also present at the merit-making ceremony.
Than Shwe, who is around 80 years old, retired as Burma’s head of state in 2011 after handing over power to a new quasi-civilian government led by President Thein Sein, another ex-general who served under Than Shwe as part of the former military junta.
Although Than Shwe has kept a low profile since stepping down, he is widely seen as the mastermind behind the political transition that has earned Burma’s new government praise for reforms, while locking in political and economic privileges for senior military leaders and their cronies.
Before elections were held in late 2010, many observers predicted that Than Shwe would assume a leading role in the new government to protect himself and his family. However, a senior army officer close to the former dictator recently told The Irrawaddy that that was never the plan.
“He knew it was time to stop, so he stopped,” the officer said.
Government sources say that Than Shwe spends most of his time these days reading in his home in Naypyidaw. He and his family live in a huge, lavish compound in the Burmese capital, under constant guard by army officers and soldiers.
Despite his retirement, Than Shwe has a dozen aides, including a chief of staff and an officer who acts as his liaison with the current government, some of whose leaders occasionally visit him to “pay their respects.”
In the past, it was reported that Than Shwe was suffering from intestinal cancer and went to Singapore for medical treatment in January 2007.
He reportedly rejected advice to undergo surgery for a life-threatening condition at that time, saying that he wanted to discuss his health with his chief astrologer first.