The author of new book about Burmese military ruler Than Shwe describes the general as smarter and better informed than most people realize, but also ruthless and adept at manipulating others.

During interviews promoting the book, entitled Unmasking Than Shwe, British journalist Benedict Rogers said he relied on conversations with Burmese military defectors and foreign diplomats to gain an insight into one of the world's most secretive leaders.

Rogers says Than Shwe's reputed interest in astrology should not lead outsiders to underestimate him.  He said the general is an astute judge of people and trained in psychological warfare, making him an expert at divide-and-rule tactics.

The author says no one should believe that planned elections this year will loosen Than Shwe's grip on power. Rogers also says the actions documented in his book provide ample grounds for Than Shwe to be brought to trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.