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Former Burmese Dictator Cremated Without Ceremony - 2002-12-06

Former Burmese dictator Ne Win has been cremated without ceremony as obituaries appeared in the Burma's state-run press. Analysts say the 91-year-old former leader will be remembered as a failure who led Burma into poverty.

Obituaries appeared in the Burmese newspapers Friday referring to Ne Win, but not his title or former role in the country.

Ne Win died Thursday morning, at the age of 91, and was cremated early that afternoon.

Burma has been in the hands of the military for the past 40 years. Ne Win took power in a 1962 coup, and stepped down as head of the government in 1988. That move helped trigger protests for an end to military rule. The military brutally put down the protests.

The present leadership, known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), came to power then. But analysts say the government remained under Ne Win's influence until his health failed a few years ago.

Chaiyachoke Chulasiriwong is a political scientist at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University, and studies Burmese politics. He says Ne Win left no legacy. "After 26 years of his rule it didn't seem that he did achieve anything at all," he said. "The country was still disunited; a lot of human rights had been abused."

Under Ne Win, the country adopted what was called the Burmese Way to Socialism, which isolated it from the rest of Asia's economic progress. Burma's once healthy economy now is one of the poorest in the region.

Professor Chaiyachoke says the economic decline stands as the major failing of Ne Win's government. "[Ne Win] himself had come out at the end before he resigned, that he was not successful at all in helping to restore the economy in any way, therefore he had to resign. He was a failed leader of Burma," he said

Diplomats expect Ne Win's death will have no affect on Burma. The family's business empire is under investigation after the arrests of Ne Win family members earlier this year.

A court in September sentenced Ne Win's son-in-law and three grandsons to death on charges of plotting a coup. They are appealing the sentence. Diplomats doubt there was a plot and view the charges as an effort to curb the family's influence.

Now the international community is waiting for the government to resume talks with the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi. But diplomats say the passing of Ne Win is unlikely to speed up political reforms.