Khin Nyunt Raises Hackles with Talk of Rejoining 'National Politics'

By Tha Lun Zaung Htet 2 November 2012

Burma’s former spy chief and ousted prime minister Khin Nyunt is back in the news this week after he told a Rangoon-based journal that he has no plans to establish a political party, but wants to engage in “national politics” to “help the people and develop the country.”

In an interview with the Modern Journal, the once powerful member of Burma’s former ruling junta said he wants to do social work, but also hopes to have a role in the country’s politics.

He also said that he supports the cooperation between President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“It’s good to see President U Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi working together. I fully support it. I come from the military, but, I don’t only support the military,” he said.

His remarks immediately provoked an angry response from members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and other opposition groups that suffered under the former regime’s repression.

“He shouldn’t talk about returning to ‘national politics,’ because in the past, the country lost a lot of people because of his role in our nation’s politics,” said Win Tin, a senior member of the NLD.

Khin Nyunt first rose to prominence in 1988 as a member of the State Law and Order Restoration Council, which seized power that year in a bloody coup that killed thousands of pro-democracy protesters.

He remained a feared and influential figure in the State Peace and Development Council, as the regime later called itself, until he was ousted by junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe in 2004.

“He should recall everything he has done—how many lives were lost and families were torn apart, with no benefit to the country, when he was in power,” said Win Tin.

“This is not a personal attack, but that is just the way it was when he was last involved in national politics,” he added.

Zosiam, the chairman of the Chin National Progressive Party, also said that he wasn’t happy to hear about Khin Nyunt’s plans to return to the political stage.

“I was glad when he said before that he would do social and religious work, but if he wants to return to national politics, I don’t welcome it at all,” he said.

Thu Wai, the chairman of the Democratic Party (Myanmar), went further, saying he would not accept any attempt by Khin Nyunt to revive his spy network and restore authoritarian rule.

“I will watch his moves carefully,” he said.

Khin Nyunt became head of Burma’s dreaded military intelligence services in 1984. He played a key role in orchestrating the military takeover four years later, when the regime of former dictator collapsed under pressure from nationwide pro-democracy protests.

He was forced to resign in 2004 and was given a 44-year suspended prison sentence on corruption and conspiracy charges. He was released from house arrest in January of this year as a part of an amnesty that included many of the country’s most prominent political prisoners.