Burma’s Puppet Show
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Burma

NEWS ANALYSIS

Burma’s Puppet Show


By AUNG ZAW Friday, February 4, 2011


A still image taken from video shows the inaugural session of the Burmese parliament in Naypyidaw on February 1, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)
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Let me be clear that Burma’s new Parliament will not pave the way for change; nor will “disciplinary democracy flourish.” It is very much a hush-hush affair in military style—even choosing its own puppet to run the show. It is a show of cowards and clowns roaming the Parliament.

This week, the puppet master Snr-Gen Than Shwe was making his move. The senior general kept his thoughts to himself until the last minute, keeping everyone guessing who the president and vice-president will be. There are some surprises though.

Gen Shwe Mann is out of favor—he is now the chairman of the Lower House. Prime Minister Thein Sein and Tin Aung Myint Oo were nominated to be vice-presidents. Last month, a journalist friend told me that Thein Sein was the likely candidate to become president. And so it has come to pass.

As a token gesture, an ethnic Shan—Sai Mauk Kham, a little known politician from the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)—was elected as one of three vice-presidents. This confirmed earlier speculation that the regime would appoint someone from an ethnic region to be vice-president. Burma’s first president in 1948 was Shan.

If we were betting on Shwe Mann to become president, then we were all betting on the wrong horse. Shwe Mann was exposed long ago.

Did Than Shwe lose trust in him?

Some even speculated that there was an internal rift between two wives. What happened between Than Shwe's wife Kyaing Kyaing and Shwe Mann's wife Khin Lay Thet? 

Khin Lay Thet often babysits Than Shwe's grandchildren and runs errands for his daughters. This helped Shwe Mann rise to the rank of joint chief of staff of the army, navy and air force.

Remember that since 1997, Than Shwe has brought many of his trusted officers to the War Office, including Gen Soe Win, Gen Thein Sein, Gen Thura Shwe Mann, Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo and Gen Tin Aye. Except for Gen Soe Win, who was prime minister until he died in 2007, the rest are still there.

Shwe Mann is no saint. He has used his position to increase his family's wealth. Two of his sons set up a company, Ayer Shwe Wah, which monopolizes the lucrative import and export business. It is entirely impossible to believe that Than Shwe doesn’t know anything of Shwe Mann and his sons' business. Some say the senior general is known to be upset with his business connection. There were spin-doctors who in the past said that Shwe Mann is the one who would reform the economy once he became president.

There is a rumor circulating in Burma that Kyaing Kyaing is upset with Khin Lay Thet. Inside sources speculate that Than Shwe and Kyaing Kyaing thought Khin Lay Thet spoiled their children and grandchildren, who became increasingly unpopular in Burma.

Remember what happened between Kyaing Kyaing and Dr Khin Win Shwe, the wife of intelligence chief Gen Khin Nyunt? Many would agree family relations play a key role in Burma’s power dynamics.

But who knew that Than Shwe trusted Thein Sein enough to make him president? Until last week, no one was sure who he was thinking to select.

Thein Sein is a loyal officer and known to be an administrator. He has served under Than Shwe in the War Office since the early 1990s. With Than Shwe’s blessings, he rapidly rose through the ranks.

Born on April 21, 1945, Thein Sein is known to be less corrupt than many other generals, such as Shwe Mann and Tin Aung Myint Oo. He is not that controversial compared to many other top-ranking generals. But once he reaches the top, more dirt on Thein Sein will likely emerge.

Thein Sein is known to take no initiative but will wait for orders from his boss, Than Shwe. At 66, he is believed to be suffering from heart disease and wanting to retire. But the puppet master asked him to stay on. If Burma becomes chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the near future, Thein Sein is the best choice to present the new regime.

It is Than Shwe’s technique to play moderates off of hardliners. If Thein Sein is soft, Tin Aung Myint Oo is a fire-breathing dragon and notoriously corrupt. He has a foul mouth and many officers resent him. But this is useful. Than Shwe usually keeps a villain in the regime to serve his own interests. He can always hide behind the villain.

The bonus to Than Shwe, who just turned 78 this month, is that Thein Sein and Tin Aung Myint Oo are at loggerheads.

Is history repeating itself? Remember that Than Shwe silently sat and watched the bitter fight between intelligence and infantry factions until 2002 before he stepped in. He benefited from a fierce power struggle between Gen Khin Nyunt and Gen Maung Aye. To remain the puppet master, Than Shwe needs to keep two rivals at the top. He won’t leave soon.



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COMMENTS (16)
 
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Ursus Wrote:
10/02/2011
It would have been wise, not to censor Myanmar Patriots comment, but ignore it. Do not post this guys stupid and insulting comments anymore. They are useless, show little sense for reality. This guy sets himself offside with his little knowledge about Burmese reality.

He is a shame for Burmese People and should be quiet for ever. His comments don't have to do anything with freedom of speech.

Insider 007 Wrote:
09/02/2011
Thein Sein, huh selected to be the President of Burma. Than Shwe the sly fox really pulled off the hidden card form his sleeves. Who knows he still has hidden cards under his sleeves. Kyaing Kyaing the advisor of Than Shwe also has a place in Burma politics like the same Thibaws wife. Kyaing Kyaing is like King Thibaws wife surrounded by the Bhramins near her led by Aung Thaung the rouge who goes to Than She's house and gives Than Shwe a massage. Thank God he is not massaging Kyaing Kyaing or it will be another you three I three and we three. The present parliament is a sham. Than Shwe picking Tin Aung Myint Oo is just to pacify him. You may know that Tin Aung Myint Oo's sons had a quarrel with Than Shwe's monkey grandson as he is called and due to Kyaing Kyaing that shop was bulldozed down and there was a bit of an internal friction. To make Tin Aung Myint Oo please Than Shwe's wife Kyaing Kyaing advised that Tin Aung Myint Oo be given the post of VP. Well the dictator still remains.

Venus Wrote:
08/02/2011
My thought is somewhat similar to Chnom.
Of course, democracy has never been born in our country yet. The existing govt. is holding the tiger's tail , so the first round will only be the puppet show we can watch, then 2nd round and 3rd round will be more or less rotten fish that we need to wait and see. I believe NLD will also get seats in the parliament , but not in this first round, but in the 2nd or 3rd round with new bloods. By that time, the director and gangs from the recent puppet show and also their rivals of the same generation might have passed away already.

Then new round of new world political order might demand something else and maybe worse than today.


Free Man Wrote:
08/02/2011
Dear PB Publico,

1. I can't see any logical reason why we can't argue about religion when we can argue about any other subjects and no one would tell us "please respect" or "don't insult". I think employing a double standard in this matter is also intellectual dishonesty.

2. For me, religions and traditions are inseparable, and they are inextricably intertwined. What are your own definitions of religion and Buddhism? What does Buddhism include?

3. "[In] Buddhism, a woman has all the rights and can practise to (and do) attain arahantahood, the same way men do." This is only half-truth. Visit the following link:
http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddhisthistory/a/buddhistwomen.htm

(Note: Dalai Lama himself said one has to become a man before one can enter monkhood when asked by a female Caucasian. And some within the pro-democracy movement argued whether or not it it ok for women to climb on pagodas like men as they discussed about women's rights.)

PB Publico Wrote:
08/02/2011
Free Man got it all wrong.

It wasn't religions that discriminate women, but the man-dominated traditions.

For instance, in Buddhism, a woman has all the rights and can practise to (and do) attain arahantahood, the same way men do. This arahantahood, for info, is the highest anybody can attain, the enlightenment of the highest order. The Buddha was an arahanta, although His enlightenment is supreme as the discoverer of the law and as the Perfected Teacher, but a teacher to Himself.

Please do not insult religions with a base thought of vulgarity. We can tolerate your kind, but your kamma will not forget or forgive you. Please stay a disbeliever if you want to, but do not comment without a study of the subject you are going to comment on.

kokopolitical analyzer Wrote:
08/02/2011
Myanmar Patriots

Here you are enjoying freedom of expression. Can we have the same right as you in Burma? No way. There is no sign of democracy in Burma yet. Freedom of speech is the basic first step we need. Have I seen it in the new parliament or outside the parliament in Burma? No yet. Same old stories.

Dear Myanmar Patriots,

Do not be confused. Not liking or supporting military dictatorship does not mean that one is not patriotic.

Lack of transparency and freedom of speech have bred corruption. Can you swear the generals are not corrupted or they have not stolen our money?

Anyway they don't have the mandate to govern us. Down with the military dictatorship!


Free Man Wrote:
07/02/2011
Tocharian wort: "There is still a lot of discrimination against woman in Burma, not just against ethnics."

Sure. And religion is one of the roots of forms of discrimination against women. If we are to ensure women rights, we will also have to oppose religious teachings that oppress women. For instance, why do women need to become man before they can enter monkhood? Why can't women climb on pagoda like men? Is that because they have vaginas instead of penises? Why women are considered cheap when they lose their virgintiy before marriage whereas men aren't? We really need to examine our thoughts and culture.

Towards a free, egalitarian society!

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
07/02/2011
"Let me be clear that Burma’s new Parliament will not pave the way for change; nor will 'disciplinary democracy flourish.'"

HEY AUNG ZAW,

Who are you to say that?

With your pea brain and tiny knowledge, you never see the big picture. It would be wise for you to shut up!

Many of your assertions have been proved to be wrong. Stop digging deeper. Get out of the hole and try to be objective. Above all, be patriotic.

WILL YOU CENSOR THIS MESSAGE?
So much for your freedom of expression.

Old Guard Wrote:
07/02/2011
DIGNITY & ALLEGIANCE OF MPs.
Now that a new government in place, the elected MPs( Presidents, military and civilian) should remember who they now are. Remember - Dress doesn't change the mentality, only Wisdom does.
The legacy of Burmese Military started as heroes, then as saviors career soldiers, and now an "army of mercenaries" who serve the corrupted generals. They lost their dignity and love of the people. Soldier and ex-soldier MPs (living on army pensions and benefits) should have a hard look at themselves in a mirror, and realize whom they REALLY OWE - taxpayers, or Sr.Gen.Than Shwe.
Mankind started in history with harsh feudal rules, but the Wise Ones got into good culture and governance, and the Stupids remained where they belong upto now.
Civilian MPs should also do the same and decide what they should do for people they represent,put party manifestos second.
"All MPs must work together for a common cause" that will benefit PEOPLE, not for their own party or army

tocharian Wrote:
06/02/2011
One should notice that in spite of this gossip about Kyaing Kyaing and Khin Lay Thet, there are very few women representatives in the two houses. There is still a lot of discrimination against woman in Burma, not just against ethnics. Psychologically, it is a sign of over-compensation that the wives of the generals like to be fighting for power through their husbands. Pathetic!

winny Wrote:
06/02/2011
Are you kidding me Than Shwe will never leave his post. People hate not only him but also his family very much esp: his grandson. If he goes down his family goes down. He can not let this happen. He is to stay people.

Michael Kyaw Nyunt Wrote:
05/02/2011
Dear Aung Zaw
Do not downgrade yourself by writing Rumours & Gossips.You report the truth without adding your feelings.

Nyi Nyi Wrote:
05/02/2011
No country has a president served by two vice-presidents except in Burma for the very reason which is to keep Than Shwe in power. A good old formula used ever since Ne Win was in power. San Yu who said nothing and who did nothing was the first president under Ne win, so will be Thein Sein. No ambition, no charisma, nothing but a walking zombie!

Myo Chit Wrote:
05/02/2011
"At 66, he is believed to be suffering from heart disease and wanting to retire"

I guess VP Dr. Sai Mauk Kham's only role is to keep the president alive and healthy.

Chnom Wrote:
05/02/2011
Not true. First step of democracy. More democracy will come in the second term including NLD. NLD will be in power in the third term of the parliament. It is the only path the military can breath.

Denys Goldthorpe Wrote:
05/02/2011
AUNG ZAW is correct Thein Sein is a puppet it make you sick to see all those puppets lined up in the new so called parliament in their pretty little clothes and behaving just as they were told to by the puppet master Thitsaphout Than Shwe, Than Shwe will not be going any were soon or retiring he as I stated before his hated to much in and outside the junta, he doesn’t trust certain generals like when he took three wives of his generals to India with him as ransom.

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