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Burma's Military Government Announces Death of Hardline Prime Minister


State media in Burma say the country's hard-line prime minister, Soe Win, is dead after a long illness. The death was announced as the government continues rounding up people after crushing massive pro-democracy demonstrations two weeks ago. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.

For days, there had been rumors that Soe Win had died following a long illness. On Friday, state radio confirmed the reports.

Soe Win was considered among the more steadfast hardliners in the military government.

His death came as the authorities continue to arrest people following a bloody crackdown last month on demonstrations by Buddhist monks and others who protested a steep hike on fuel prices and the government's repressive policies.

Win Min, an expert on Burma's military and politics at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, says Soe Win's death is not likely to mean any changes in the leadership's policy.

"This is a very symbolic post and the prime minister can not make, I mean, any important, you know, decision," he said.

Most of the power is concentrated in the head of state, General Than Shwe.

Soe Win carried out the crackdown on the party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2003, and put her back into detention.

The Nobel laureate has spent most of the past 18 years under house arrest for opposing the military government that has ruled Burma since 1962.

Also on Friday, Burma's government said it regrets a statement issued by the United Nations Security Council deploring the crackdown on protesters and calling for the release of political prisoners. In statements issued through state media, the government said it would continue to cooperate with the U.N.

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