Does Than Shwe Retain De Facto Leadership?
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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Does Than Shwe Retain De Facto Leadership?

By WAI MOE Saturday, April 2, 2011

Snr-Gen Than Shwe , left, walks by administrative ministers during a reception to mark Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw on March 27, 2011. (Photo: AP )

Burma is traditionally one of most secretive countries in the world, and after Wednesday's parliamentary ceremony to swear in a new parliament, nothing has happened to alter that reputation.

The military hierarchy would appear to remain intact. If not, everyone is keeping tight-lipped about the formation of the new government anyway.

The most interesting question for Burma watchers is the future role of Snr-Gen Than Shwe, 78, and Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye,73.

One report from Naypyidaw could offer an answer. According to military sources in the capital, Than Shwe and his deputy arrived at their new offices in Naypyidaw on Thursday morning for a meeting with top officials ahead of President Thein Sein's address to the new cabinet. Than Shwe and Maung Aye reportedly held talks with their seven closest aides including the new commanders-in-chief of the armed forces.

The report about Than Shwe’s meeting with his “top seven” came amid rumors among government officials in the capital that an extra-constitutional “board of consultants” has been established by Than Shwe. 

“Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye appeared at the office located around Uppasasanti Pagoda [in Naypyidaw],” said a senior military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He added that attending the meeting were: ex-Gen Shwe Mann, 63, who is now Lower House speaker; President ex-Gen Thein Sein, 65; vice presidents ex-Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo, 61, and ex-Lt-Gen Tin Aye, 65, who is also the chairman of the Union Election Commission; commander-in-chief of the armed forces Gen Min Aung Hlaing; and deputy commander-in-chief Lt-Gen Soe Win.

Commenting on Than Shwe's future role, a senior civic officer in Naypyidaw said, “I heard Than Shwe and Maung Aye will take back seats, but will be consulted.”

The senior-general is now like Kim Jong Il, the supreme leader of North Korea, or Lee Kuan Yew who is minister mentor of Singapore, he said.
He added that as Than Shwe and his board of consultants has not been officially appointed, those involved are under strict instructions to “be discreet.”

The Naypyidaw meeting on Thursday morning followed a day after President Thein Sein and his cabinet were sworn in at parliament.

Naypyidaw sources said last week that Than Shwe reportedly told Shwe Mann, Thein Sein, Tin Aung Myint Oo and Tin Aye that although they “took off their uniforms for the sake of the nation,” they will remain as de facto leaders of the Tatmadaw [Burma's armed forces].

Meanwhile, since Min Aung Hlaing and Soe Win—both in their early 50s— were publicly declared the new military chiefs, unconfirmed reports from the army said that there was a disagreement over the role of former commanders from the Sino-Burmese border as the two new chiefs are particularly unpopular among the northern region military officers.

Even though Than Shwe transferred the commander-in-chief post to Min Aung Hlaing, the aging dictator remains at the official residence designated for the military chief, along with a command center where his general staff officer, Col. Myint Kyi, reports and receives Than Shwe’s instructions.

“Both Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye have offices at the compound of their residences in Naypyidaw,” said a military source. “The offices at their residences are referred to as 'the office of the commander-in-chief' and 'the office of the deputy commander-in-chief.'”

While Myint Kyi is general staff officer to Than Shwe, Maj Kyaw Zwa Lin serves as general staff officer to Maung Aye.

Then on Friday, news leaked from Naypyidaw that Than Shwe had appointed Lt-Gen Hla Htay Win, the current chief of armed forces, to be the next joint chief of staff (Army, Navy, Air Force), the third highest ranking position in the military.

Introduced to the Burmese military in 2002, the position of joint chief-of-staff (Army, Navy, Air Force) has the authority to oversee the commander-in-chief (Navy) and the commander-in-chief (Air Force) as well as the day-to-day operations of the army.

While newly appointed de jure commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing was from Defense Service Academy (DSA) Intake-19, Soe Win and Hla Htay Win were from DSA intakes 23 and 20.

Meanwhile, sources on Friday said that portraits of Than Shwe still adorn the walls of all government offices.

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Kerry Wrote:
There is nothing 'secretive' about the horror that is Burma. The whole world knows.

The destroyed lives, fleeing refugees (including mnay children) destroyed villages, lack of regard for human life, rape, corruption, sale of the nation's assets, Singapore banks accounts, shocking treatment of political prisoners and widespread brutality are known to the whole world.

No nation or company or individual or travel agents who make ANY deals with the Military (or the military posing as a 'democratic' government) can claim they 'didn't know' that the profits gained were at the expense of human lives.

Everything is accountable.

Terry Evans Wrote:
Those who seek power are not worthy of that power.

Than Shwe has gone. But, the insanely crafted theory – the army must rule the country like King Kyansittha, Bayintnaung and Ah Longphayar in order to preserve the unified Burma; remains. That’s the philosophy what Gen. Ne Win had planted in the army. And, that’s why we see those statutes and names in Naypyidaw now. Than Shwe has replicated it among his cohorts. This kind of dark-age mentality has well poisoned the army since 1962. Whether or not such mentality will fit in today’s modern society is the question the army leaders must answer themselves.

Under such system, no “new government” would find a way solve the corruptions, cronyism, favoritism and the distribution of the country’s wealth among the army generals in the long run. In fact, the system has started to crack. The new generation of army leaders with new-rule must emerge for sure.
Our focus can’t effort loose not even by a point of blink at this point. The battle would require unity and cooperation sooner rather than later as well.

Salai Lian Wrote:
Than Shwe promised us with Disciplined Democracy. If he makes himself leader of the elected leaders, what kind of man he may think of himself? Is he the man of his word? Or is he an idiot man?

Mualcin Wrote:
The ghost of Than Shwe keeps haunting.

ludu Wrote:
He is still busy with, sometimes being monkey, sometimes devil.

Sai Lin Wrote:
I won't call de facto leadership because de facto leadership means they will have equal power. Than Shwe is puppet master and other newly appointed generals are just puppets. Audiences can not see puppet master and audiences can only see puppets at the show.
Than Shwe can dismiss them from their post anytime. They will be arrested or removed from position if they by pass him and he becomes suspect on their activity. You can find same formula in Burmese military dictatorship’s handbook if you look back into the Ne Win era. Colonel Tin Oo saved Ne Win from assassination plot by Capt. Ohn Kyaw Myint and other junior officers. Later Ne Win promoted Tin Oo to Brigadier General. However, Ne Win sent Tin Oo to prison when he realized Tin Oo was major threatens to his leadership. Same fate as Tin Oo, Khin Nyunt was eventually removed from Sec.1 position and put under house arrested by Than Shwe. For Than Shwe, Lion will not share cave with another lion. In Burmese military, there’s no mercy, no loyalty and distrust each others.

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