News / Asia

Burmese Press Mention 'Retired' Former Leader Than Shwe

Gen. Than Shwe (file photo)
Gen. Than Shwe (file photo)
William Ide

As Burma moves to polish an image long-stained by repressive military rule, the man who led that government, former military General Than Shwe, has slipped into the shadows. At least until Thursday, when Burmese state media mentioned his name for the first time since the new government stepped into power in March.

Before Burma's new leaders rose to power, Than Shwe regularly made headlines in state media publications, highlighting his dominance in the political system. His name has slipped out of print until this week, when both the Myanma Alin and The Mirror newspapers carried stories about him.

The news, buried far from the front page, referred to him as retired.

Former military intelligence officer Aung Lin Htut, who used to work closely with Burma’s now-President Thein Sein, says this could be a signal to the United States. He says calling Than Shwe “retired” before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Burma next month could be an effort to convince Washington that the long-time ruler is out of power.

But what does retirement mean for a man who was almost single-handedly in charge of Burma for nearly two decades? Benedict Rogers, the author of the biography “Than Shwe - Unmasking a Tyrant,” says he’s probably not just golfing.

“One spokesman from the regime was recently quoted as saying he’s spending lots of time reading.  He’s also known to be a keen golf player. Is he really doing that or is he still involved in some way? He probably is not involved in day to day decisions, but I think he does continue to wield some influence particularly in the military,” Rogers said.

Aung Din, a former political prisoner who now heads the U.S. Campaign for Burma, says Than Shwe may still be influential but that is not what is most important.  

"He might be pulling the strings from behind the scenes, but we just need to monitor the current players, what they are doing and how they are making progress or whether they are going to turn back to their past," Aung Din said.

In March, Thein Sein, a former general and prime minister, became president following Burma’s first national elections in 20 years. Until then, analysts say executive decisions were based largely on Than Shwe’s personal preferences with little consultation.

David Steinberg, a Burma analyst at Georgetown University, says the dynamic seems to have shifted.

"People have told me that nobody could bring things up to him [Than Shwe] unless he brought them up first. Now that’s changed. Part of that results from a change in personality. Part of that may also be that we’re not sure where power is. Power is shared now," Steinberg said.

With this new dynamic, Burma has seen a flurry of reforms. This week, the parliament passed a bill allowing citizens to hold peaceful protests - with some conditions. Authorities also have freed several hundred political prisoners, passed legislation legalizing labor unions and canceled the construction of an unpopular Chinese dam.

The bill allowing peaceful protests still needs presidential approval. It requires protestors to apply for a permit five days prior to rallies and says demonstrations must avoid government buildings, banks, schools, hospitals and embassies.  

Aung Din says that while this is good progress, there is still much to be done. "Even though there is a law allowing people to protest, but at the same time people are looking at the political prisoners, arrested and in prison for their peaceful protest. This is a kind of irony," Aung Din said.

Human rights groups estimate that more than 1,000 political prisoners remain behind bars.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid