The Faces of Burma 2005
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Tuesday, November 13, 2018
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The Faces of Burma 2005


By The Irrawaddy DECEMBER, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.12


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(Page 9 of 13)

“If the Burmese authorities truly believe that we are biased and unfair,” Than Lwin Htun says, “they should give us access to them so that we can present their views as different opinions in our broadcast.”
 
Burmese Radio Service from Abroad [Media]
 
The role of the media is becoming increasingly influential in shaping Burmese politics, as more and more people inside Burma dare to speak to media outlets, especially short-wave radio programs.
 
Despites early doubts about its credibility, The Irrawaddy now sees the VOA Burmese Service as a progressive organization, heading in a promising direction. We also note the efforts of the exiled radio Democratic Voice of Burma, who strive to remain independent and have scored something of a coup with their twice-weekly television program. Beamed into Burma by satellite, DVB launched the one-hour program in May 2005, presenting news reports, features, educational programs on non-violent movements and entertainment shows.
 
 
The BBC’s Burmese Service, however, receives few accolades for its performance in 2005. After hailing its contribution to the flow of accurate and independent news into Burma in the two previous years, we have to report that it made some serious gaffs this year—among them, a dispatch that there had been a coup in Rangoon. Many listeners complained about the accuracy of the service, but the BBC turned a deaf ear. Burma’s Information Minister also accused the BBC of fabrication—and this time there might have been some basis to his charge.
 
The Burmese service of Washington-based Radio Free Asia might have been expected to overtake the popularity of the BBC in 2005, but its lack of professionalism took a toll. It has to be credited with providing relatively credible news and feature programs. But it earns low marks for its writing, editorial judgment, lack of consistency and poor voice delivery.
 
Than Shwe [Burma's Junta Supremo]
 
Burma’s most powerful general has ruled the country since 1992 and currently holds the government’s two highest posts—chairman of the State Peace and Development Council and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
 
Many in Burma—including senior government officials—believe that the junta chief has grown increasingly out of touch with affairs of state, mentally unstable and extremely paranoid. It is also believed that he was principally responsible for the bizarre decision to relocate key government ministries to Pyinmana, central Burma, on the advice of his astrologers.
 
Some even say that Than Shwe—despite his as yet unchallenged hold on power in Burma—would gladly abandon his office for the position of president in a new civilian government.
 
The administrative capital of Burma may be moving north, but Than Shwe is staying put in Rangoon—in deference to his family’s reluctance to leave the city. He is said to desire a fleet of helicopters to shuttle him between Pyinmana and Rangoon when his attendance at cabinet sessions and upper-level meetings is required.
 
The senior general rarely makes public appearances. He occasionally meets visiting diplomats, who have discounted persistent rumors of the general’s poor health. Reports of mental instability notwithstanding, Than Shwe is still credited with considerable political acumen, as befits a former member of the country’s psychological warfare department. He is reported this year to have told high-ranking UN officials that he wants no interference by the UN or any nation—including China and Russia—in the internal affairs of Burma.
 
Than Shwe is living proof of the adage that behind every powerful man stands a woman. In his case, there are two women who dominate his thoughts and are capable of disrupting his schedule. One of them, Kyaing Kyaing, is his wife. The other is pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi—the very mention of her name is said to send the general into paroxysms of rage.
 
Kyaing Kyaing [Burma's First Lady]
 
Burmese supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s wife, Kyaing Kyaing, is regarded in Burma as a Shakespearean Lady Macbeth figure, the real power behind the Rangoon throne. Her influence is apparently so strong that she is said to have blocked her husband’s wish to retire from active political life.
 
Much of what is written about her is based on rumor and hearsay, but the reports, from various sources, are so consistent that a large measure of credibility must be attached to them.
 
Kyaing Kyaing is an ethnic Pa-O and the widow of a senior army officer. That much is known—but then her life story enters the realm of hearsay.


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