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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid