NLD Secretary U Lwin Suffers Stroke, Chairman Aung Shwe also Ill
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NLD Secretary U Lwin Suffers Stroke, Chairman Aung Shwe also Ill

By WAI MOE Wednesday, October 22, 2008


One of the secretaries of Burma’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), U Lwin, has suffered a stroke, NLD spokesman Nyan Win said on Wednesday.

The 86-year-old party functionary is critically ill, according to NLD sources.

NLD Chairman Aung Shwe, 91, is also ill, suffering from flu, Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy.

The NLD sources said U Lwin is not expected to return to work.

He and Aung Shwe are said to be the world’s oldest active political party leaders.

They served as high-ranking military officers under Gen Ne Win, then chief of the Tatmadaw (Burma’s armed forces). Before the 1962 military coup, Aung Shwe was a member of the Burma Socialist Party.

Aung Shwe was forced to retire from the Tatmadaw in 1961, when he was the commander of the Southern Regional Command. He then served as Burma’s ambassador to Australia, Egypt, France, Spain and New Zealand from 1961 to 1975. 

U Lwin was deputy prime minister and a state council member under the Burma Socialist Programme Party regime, headed by Gen Ne Win.

Both of them became leading members of the NLD and the Patriotic Old Comrades League (POCL) in 1988. The POCL was abolished by the current military junta.

Aung Shwe became chairman of the NLD when the junta pressured the party to sack Tin Oo and his secretary-general, Aung San Suu Kyi, in the early 1990s. Aung Shwe is also chairman of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, a grouping of successful candidates who won constituencies in the 1990 election.

U Lwin and Aung Shwe were members of a faction of former military officers when the NLD was formed. A second faction grouped intellectuals and was led by Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Tin.

Win Tin was among many members of the intellectual faction imprisoned in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was released in late September, along with such leading NLD members as Khin Maung Shwe, Than Nyein and May Win Myint, and he was offered his former position of secretary. An executive member role was offered to Khin Maung Shwe.

Win Tin, a popular figure within the NLD, has yet to accept the position of secretary, but he has agreed to work as an executive member, sources said.

Khin Maung Shwe said the old factions within the NLD had ceased to exist. “We have neither  factions of patriotic old comrades or intellectuals. We are all [members] of the NLD,” he said.

Most of the “old guard” members of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) are in their 80s.

There has been no reorganization of the CEC for several years, partly because any reform of the party has to be approved by the government, according to Aye Thar Aung, an Arakan leader who works closely with the NLD. 

The party has, however, gradually rejuvenated its information committee. Members such as Han Thar Myint, Nyan Win,Win Naing and the late Myint Thein, all of them in their 50s and 60s, became spokesmen for the NLD. Before their arrival on the scene, U Lwin was the NLD’s only spokesman.

Before Suu Kyi was arrested in May 2003, she regularly held literary gatherings with young people at the NLD headquarter in Rangoon, fostering a future generation of leaders.

The NLD also reportedly encouraged young members to attend classes in the English language and international relations at the education centers of foreign embassies in Rangoon, with the same aim of building a new leadership generation.

“To be dynamic in politics, the NLD needs a new generation,” said Aye Thar Aung.

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