Friday, December 19, 2008

Than Shwe’s Dynastic Family Dream on Parade at State Function

The Irrawaddy News
December 18, 2008

A highly publicized appearance by the family of Burmese junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe at an important military function is being interpreted in some circles as further evidence that the elderly general is creating a ruling dynasty of his own.

Than Shwe’s wife Kyaing Kyaing, two of their daughters, a granddaughter and a favorite grandson were pictured by the state media in prominent positions at last week’s graduation ceremony at the Defense Service Academy in Pyinoolwin (formerly known as May Myo), Mandalay Division.

A report in the regime mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar, on December 13 described them as “distinguished guests” and gave them more prominence in its picture coverage than such leading members of the military government as the junta’s No 3, Gen Thura Shwe Mann and Secretary-1, Lt-Gen Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo. The report did not say whether the junta’s No 2, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, was present at the ceremony.

Pictures of Than Shwe’s family showed “first lady” Kyaing Kyaing sitting on a sofa next to grandson Nay Shwe Thway Aung. Daughters Dewar Shwe and Khin Pyone Shwe and granddaughter Aye Thida Shwe sat on separate sofas. It wasn’t clear from the newspaper’s report whether Than Shwe’s daughter Thandar Shwe, whose opulent wedding two years ago aroused scorn and outrage, in Burma and internationally, was present.

In The New Light of Myanmar’s coverage of the graduation ceremony, a picture of Shwe Mann, Burma’s Chief of Staff and Coordinator of Special Operations, Army, Navy and Air Force, was relegated to an inside page. A picture of Tin Aung Myint Oo was assigned an even less prominent position in the newspaper’s coverage.

Shwe Mann is tipped by the Economist Intelligence Unit to succeed Than Shwe, but Tin Aung Myint Oo, who has more seniority, is emerging as a serious rival. Their positioning in The New Light of Myanmar’s report on the graduation ceremony and the prominence given to Than Shwe’s family are being interpreted by Burma observers as a sign of uncertainty about rankings within the military leadership.

Burmese who remember the rule of late dictator Ne Win point out that members of his family stayed away from important state functions, even though he had his favorites—such as daughter Sandar Win.

“Than Shwe is disclosing his intention of creating a new Burmese dynasty by parading his family members at state functions,” said Thakin Chan Tun, a former Burmese diplomat.

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