Junta leader of Myanmar,Than Shwe

Gen. Than Shwe, who has headed the country's ruling military council since 1992, began his career in psychological warfare, which gave him a strong taste for controlling ideas and the media.

Junta leader of Myanmar,Than Shwe

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Than Shwe was born in Kyaukse, Mandalay Division. He enlisted in the army, where he spent several years in the psychological warfare department, served in the operations against KNDO (Karen National Defence Organisation) insurgents between 1948 and the early '50s.

In 1960, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. After the military coup of 1962 by General Ne Win, Than Shwe continued rising steadily through the ranks. He reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1972, Colonel in 1978, Commander of the South West Regional Command in 1983, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Brigadier-General and Deputy Minister of Defence in 1985 and then Major-General in 1986.


He also obtained a seat on the ruling Burma Socialist Programme Party's Central Executive Committee. 

Rise to Power

The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) was created as a response to the civil unrests and democracy uprising of 1988, Than Shwe was appointed as one of 21 members of the Cabinet of General Saw Maung.

On 23 April 1992, Saw Maung unexpectedly resigned, citing health reasons, and Than Shwe replaced him as Chairman of the Council, head of state, Secretary of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Style of leadership

Than Shwe initially appeared to be more liberal than his predecessor, as he freed political prisoners and began to relax the restrictions on the democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been placed under house arrest after the abortive election of 1990. In 1993, he ordered the writing of a new Constitution.


Than Shwe relaxed some state control over the economy, and has been a vocal supporter of Myanmar's participation in the Association of South East Asian Nations. He also oversaw a large crackdown on corruption, which saw the sackings of a number of cabinet ministers and regional commanders in 1997. Though he is often seen as not tolerating criticism, he has, for the first time in many years, allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross and Amnesty International to make visits to Myanmar. However, indirect restrictions diminishing some of the activities of the Red Cross, such as visits to local prisons, have been imposed. Red Cross representatives are for example no longer allowed into prisons unaccompanied, effectively rendering their objective impossible: to speak freely to prisoners about their living conditions.


The convention for the so called "Discipline Democracy New Constitution" was convened from 9th January 1993 to 3rd September 2007, a period of more than 14 years and 8 months. Although the main political party, NLD, which won the Multiple Party Democracy General Election in 1990, did not participate, the chairman of National Convention Congress Lieutenant General Thein Sein announced that the creation of the "Constitution" has been accomplished.

He has continued the suppression of the free press in Myanmar, and has overseen the detention of journalists who oppose his regime. While he oversaw the release of Aung San Suu Kyi during the late 1990s, he also oversaw her return to detention in 2003. Despite his relaxation of some restrictions on Myanmar's economy, his economic policies have been often criticized as ill-planned.

He maintains a low profile. He tends to be seen as being sullen and rather withdrawn, a hardliner and an opponent of the democratization of Myanmar. He marks national holidays and ceremonies with messages in the state-run newspapers, but rarely talks to the press.

For many years, Than was seen as something of a figurehead as head of state, with the power over policy being held by his ministers. However, more recent reports suggest that, in recent years, he has been consolidating his power over the country. When he reached the mandatory retirement age of 60, he simply extended it, which has led to suggestions that he may remain as head of state for the rest of his life.

Power struggles have plagued Burma's military leadership. Than Shwe has been linked to the toppling and arrest of Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, which has significantly increased his own power. Khin Nyunt was sacked and arrested in 2004. The former premier, who said he supported Aung San Suu Kyi's involvement in the National Convention, was seen as a moderate who was at odds with the junta's hardliners.

In May and November 2006 he met with UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari in the newly-built capital of Naypyidaw, which had replaced Yangon in the previous year, and permitted Gambari to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, a younger sister of U Aung San Oo, the head of Myanmar largest opposition party [NLD].

Than Shwe flew to Singapore on 31 December 2006. Than Shwe had checked out of Singapore's General Hospital, where he had received treatment, and returned to Myanmar. He rarely makes public appearances.

Concerns about Than Shwe's health intensified after the 4th January 2007 as he failed to appear at an official Independence Day dinner for military leaders, officials and diplomats. It was the first time since he took power in 1992 that Than Shwe did not host the annual dinner.

Sept 25 2007 - Thailand's military is prepared to evacuate Thai citizens from Myanmar. The wife and children of a senior general and the chairman of the State Peace and Development Council in Myanmar, Than Shwe, have apparently left for Thailand on September 25th 2007. Source: Stratfor

After days of mounting protests against Myanmar's military government, there were unconfirmed reports that Than Shwe's family has fled the country on September 27th 2007. A chartered Air Bagan flight carrying eight special passengers landed in Vientiane, Laos, at 6pm (local time). Air Bagan is owned by Than Shwe's right hand business tycoon Tay Za.

Nowadays, the country is being shaken with the demonstrations led by the monks in the country as a reaction against the limitations of the freedom. Too bloody events took place in the city where the junta leader is seen as the main guilty.


Last Mod: 29 Eylül 2007, 21:32
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