Than Shwe ‘Worried’ About Burma’s Politics, Says House Speaker

By Htet Naing Zaw 25 October 2013

NAYPYIDAW — The dictator who was at the top of Burma’s military regime until two years ago, Senior General Than Shwe, is concerned about the way the country’s political sphere is developing, according the speaker of Parliament’s Lower House.

During a press conference held Thursday in Naypyidaw, the speaker, Shwe Mann, recounted a meeting with the former ruler on Oct. 19, the day of the Thadingyut festival, when Burmese traditionally pay respects to their elders or superiors.

Shwe Mann said that although Than Shwe is no longer directly involved in the country’s politics, he is closely following the evolution of the political framework he worked on when in power, and is concerned.

“Snr General is worried about things that shouldn’t happen in today’s Burmese politics,” the Lower House speaker said, somewhat cryptically. “He’s concerned about the ongoing political process, but he is no longer involved in politics because he can’t be. He’s having a peaceful life.”

But Shwe Mann, who was the third-highest ranking member of the former military regime, didn’t elaborate on what specifically was worrying his former boss.

Than Shwe came to power in 1992 as head of State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and commander-in-chief of the Burma Army, following the unexpected resignation of Senior General Saw Maung, officially due to health reasons.

While he was in office, Than Shwe is believed to have masterminded the drafting of the now controversial 2008 Constitution, beginning in 1993. He held nation-wide referendum, largely considered not a fair vote, to approve the constitution

In 2007, his military crushed the monk-led Saffron Revolution. And when the catastrophic Cyclone Nargis hit the country’s delta in 2008, Than Shwe denied foreign aid workers access to the country.

In 2011, he officially resigned from his position as head of state in favor of his hand-picked successor, President Thein Sein, who has since introduced democratic reforms to the nation’s authoritarian political system. However, conventional wisdom has it that the retired ruler is still influential in the quasi-civilian government still dominated by ex-generals.