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Burma: Family Members of General Ne Win Arrested - 2002-03-09

Burma's military government said it has arrested key family members of the former strongman, General Ne Win, on charges they were attempting to stage a coup. The Burmese capitol, Rangoon, was quiet Saturday although all the regional military commanders had been summoned to the city for a meeting.

The arrests of members of former dictator General Ne Win's family began late Thursday when Ne Win's son-in-law, Aye Zaw Win was taken into custody while dining at a Chinese restaurant in Rangoon.

Three grandchildren were also arrested and Sandar Win - Gen Ne Win's daughter and wife of Aye Zaw Win - was placed under effective house arrest.

Kyaw Win, Burma's deputy chief of military intelligence, told reporters Saturday the arrests were based on a charge the group was planning to overthrow the military government. Kyaw Win said the arrests took place due to an attempt to seize state power and to split the armed forces.

Security around the compound of General Ne Win had been increased but the deputy chief of military intelligence denied earlier reports the 90-year- old General Ne Win was under house arrest.

All the country's regional military commanders have been summoned to Rangoon for a meeting, although there was no reported stepping up of security in the capital.

The arrests indicate potential deep seated differences within the military over the direction secretive talks between the military and Nobel Laureate and opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, have been taking over the past year or more. Few details have been made available apart from the release of several hundred political prisoners.

General Ne Win was a key member of the military group which included Aung San Suu Kyi's late father, General Aung San, that was at the forefront of Burma's struggle for independence from Britain in the 1940s. General Ne Win staged a coup in 1962 and the country has largely remained under military control since then.

He retired in 1988 prior to a popular uprising against military rule, which was brutally crushed by the armed forces. A landslide victory in May 1990 general elections of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, or NLD, was never recognized by the military.

Rangoon observers were reported saying while the city was calm, it was abuzz with rumor and speculation as people awaited further announcements or official reports.