Burma’s ailing dictator resigns military post

by Ben Doherty
27th August 2010

Than Shwe and other generals quit military to apparently ensure they stay in charge as civilians after November elections

Burma’s reclusive and ailing dictator, Than Shwe, has resigned his military post, exiled Burmese media have reported, paving the way for him to become president in Burma’s government after the elections.

Shwe, the despot who has brutally ruled south-east Asia’s poorest country as commander-in-chief of the armed forces since 1992, yesterday handed control of the army to his adjutant general. However, the 77-year-old will remain head of the Burmese government.

More than a dozen other senior military officers also resigned, in an ominous sign for the country’s forthcoming elections. Inside Burma, Shwe’s resignation of his military role is being seen as a significant step towards ensuring he and his military cadres remain in charge after 7 November’s national elections, the first to be held in Burma for two decades.

“I think this means only one thing – he wants to be president,” a source inside Burma told the Guardian.

The country’s new constitution says the presidency can only be held by a civilian, but it does insist the president and vice-president “shall be well acquainted with the affairs of the Union, such as … the military”.

The junta’s second-in-command, Maung Aye, also resigned, as did the regime’s numbers three and four. It is understood they will stand as candidates for the junta’s largest proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP), in constituencies in the capital, Naypyidaw.

An unnamed military official said 15 senior army officials had resigned their posts, but did not confirm that the junta’s leader was among them. But a second source told agencies the resignations went right to the top: “All top leaders have given up their military positions.”

It is the second major reshuffle since April, when 27 senior military figures, including the prime minister, Thein Sein, resigned to lead the USDP.

Burma’s last elections, in 1990, were won overwhelmingly by the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi. But the junta refused to recognise the result and Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the past two decades in detention.

Her party is boycotting the poll after she was excluded from participating by new election laws which forbid people in custody from running for office. She is due to be released less than a week after the 7 November election.

Supporters of the polls say any move towards democracy, however flawed, is an improvement on the current military rule. Thirty-seven non-regime parties have registered for the elections, but few have a national presence and none have the money or influence of the pro-regime party and its proxies.

But critics of Burma’s “road map to democracy”, including Britain, the US and the UN, have dismissed the election as a sham, saying the poll will only entrench and formalise military rule.

“We don’t regard the forthcoming elections as being a legitimate expression of public opinion,” Jeremy Browne, a Foreign Office minister, said in Bangkok last month. “We continue to have a very strong view the situation in Burma is unacceptable.”

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Sunday, 29 August 2010 - 10:14 am

    No big deal. Bottom line is that they are all still in charge. Just a change of clothes, that’s all.

  2. #2 by Thor on Sunday, 29 August 2010 - 10:40 am

    What’s the difference?
    Just only a disguise.
    We are practising it here already!

  3. #3 by k1980 on Sunday, 29 August 2010 - 11:28 am

    Than Shwe should put forward a (copied) slogan ” 1burma People first Performance now”. Then he can be assured of a unified Burma supporting him for another 50 years, by which time he will be 127 years old

  4. #4 by cseng on Sunday, 29 August 2010 - 11:54 am

    Remember Gallup polls on country happiness, M’sia & Philippines are 94 and Myanmar 91, I fail to understand, until now.

    Maybe, they knew they would pass this Junta after the Junta Leader died, they are hopeful on this, they have that lively HOPE! The problem, after all, more contained to small group of Juntas.

    We, on the other hand, would went over the Father-of-all-racist’s time eventually, but his legacy of racism and religionism are here to remain, we do not hold that HOPE!, not immediate future. The problem maybe much complicated than Junta, it was created systemically, institutionally, it takes decades to install and de-install.

    Happiness might not be that expensive after all, being hopeful could make one happy. Looking around how many flags were hang during this ‘Merdeka’ day? It could gauges the happiness on the country, are they happy with their country situation? not totally a gauge of patriotism, that is patriotism Umno style, that celebrations are parties Umno style.

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Sunday, 29 August 2010 - 3:54 pm

    Burmese are happy because they are forced to be happy as what else can they do but to be happy? Being unhappy doesn’t help them to be happy and so they decide to be happy to be happy as unhappiness isn’t an option for unhappiness. So they externalise their unhappiness by being happy in the hope that the happiness will at some of time become true happiness. So they are happy, more than the happiness experienced by Malaysians who choose to be less happy because we choose to hide our unhappiness and pretend to be a bit happy when actually we are less than happy. So we must force ourselves to be happy like the Burmese who are forced to be happy and if we can force out our unhappiness and appear a bit more happy, then in the course of time we will actually be more happy than the happiness experienced by the Burmese and we will beat them at the happiness game.

  6. #6 by k1980 on Sunday, 29 August 2010 - 4:25 pm

    Than Shwe, just set up your BACC (Burma Anti-Corruption Commission) to get rid of your opponents. So simple and yet you dunno. Call yourself a general

  7. #7 by yhsiew on Sunday, 29 August 2010 - 5:55 pm

    ///Than Shwe and other generals quit military to apparently ensure they stay in charge as civilians after November elections///

    Such news is not new. Did not some of our ex-ministers and ex-prime minsters (e.g. Mahadir) try all sorts of methods to cling on to power after retirement?

    In Western countries gaining and quitting a minister’s post is as normal as breathing, whereas in South-East Asia ministers are reluctant to quit even after retirement or after being voted out of office. Presumably, there is much to gain by becoming a minister in this part of the world.

  8. #8 by dagen on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 8:56 am

    No our stories are way better. Dr mamak told the world about “the malaysian miracle” story. Ah koon told us about the “I will be responsible for the defeat and will not seek any ministerial position” story. Jib continues to tell us his all time favourite “1malaysia” thingy which until now no one seems to follow or able to do so. Macc too told us the story (with live demo) of “strangulating oneself”.

    “Masuk angin keluar asap”.

    I did not take your rambutan cintanegara.

  9. #9 by dagen on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 8:58 am

    Ask kassim. He could have taken your rambutan! Or mel_a_yu.

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