Burma's military government says four relatives of former strongman Ne Win arrested last month will be tried for high treason, which carries the death penalty. Diplomats say the arrests may mark a wider sweep by the government targeting supporters of Ne Win.
Burma's deputy military intelligence chief Major General Kyaw Win said those charged with high treason include Ne Win's son-in-law and three grandsons, all linked to the alleged coup plot.
Last month's arrest of the four, led by son-in-law Aye Zaw Win triggered widespread speculation over the near term political outlook for Burma, a country under military control since 1962. Major General Kyaw Win did not give a trial date but said investigations and questioning were continuing.
According to the military, the group was planning to arrest key members of the ruling State Peace and Development Council SPDC, in a bid to further the influence of the powerful Ne Win family. Ne Win, 91, ruled Burma from 1962 before retiring in 1988, and has been confined to his home together with his daughter Sandar Win an influential businesswoman in her own right.
The arrests were generally supported by many Burmese who had suffered economically during Ne Win's rule and disastrous economic policies that sent into tailspin the once thriving economy.
Diplomats are skeptical over the coup plot theory, arguing the arrests were part of plans to strengthen the power base of military government head, Than Shwe, and purge Ne Win supporters from both the military and civilian bureaucracy.
The arrests also raised widespread questions about the future of highly secretive talks with opposition leader and Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, and her National League for Democracy.
Last week, U.N. official Paulo Sergio Pinheiro appeared upbeat on the outlook saying he remained confident the SPDC was pursuing a transition from political exclusion to cooperation with Aung San Suu Kyi's party.