NAYPYITAW—Former Lower House Speaker U Shwe Mann said he no longer calls on military strongman U Than Shwe, the leader of the military regime that ruled the country from 1998 to 2010.
Speaking to the media at his residence on Monday, the retired general and the third-most-powerful man in the former military regime said in response to The Irrawaddy’s questions that he is no longer visiting U Than Shwe because it only sets off wild speculation.
“At present, we just mind our own business and the relationship is normal. Because of the wild speculation about our social relationship, I don’t visit him,” he said.
In response to rumors spreading on social media that U Than Shwe had died, he said, “As far as I know, he is in good health.”
On April 4, the Speaker Journal reported that Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in February accompanied U Than Shwe to visit the jetty and airport in Coco Islands in Yangon Region.
The Irrawaddy could not independently confirm the report.
While he was serving as Lower House Speaker, U Shwe Mann told reporters in 2013 that U Than Shwe still took an interest in Myanmar’s political process, though he was no longer directly involved in it.
When the military transferred power to a quasi-civilian government after the 2010 election, U Than Shwe hand-picked ex-general U Thein Sein as the president, U Shwe Mann as the Lower House speaker and Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing as his military successor.
Ex-generals who served in the top positions of the military government, the State Peace and Development Council, live in six mansions numbered from A 1 to A 6 in Naypyitaw. Retired Vice Senior General Maung Aye lives between U Than Shwe and U Shwe Mann, and the three others are owned by retired General U Tin Aung Myint Oo, former president U Thein Sein and former Union Election Commission chairman U Tin Aye.
U Shwe Mann said he still has personal ties with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi despite the abolition of the Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission led by him.
He moved to ally himself with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, ahead of the 2015 general election, and though he lost his race to an NLD candidate that year, he was appointed by her to head the commission.
When asked by The Irrawaddy if his Union Betterment Party would forge an alliance with the NLD, he said he is willing to cooperate with any party that respects democracy and human rights. His party will be headquartered at his residence, he said.
Having served in the military for 45 years, he is deeply attached to the Tatmadaw, U Shwe Mann said.
“There is a need to distinguish between Tatmadaw, the organization and its individual members. Otherwise, national reconciliation can’t be achieved,” he said.
He also presented the reporters with two books on the role his commission played in the democratization process of Myanmar, and the commission’s works over its three years of existence.