Monday, January 5, 2009

Than Shwe Fails to Attend Independence Day Dinner

Too embarrassed to show face... :)
The Irrawaddy News

For the second time in three years, the head of Burma’s ruling military junta, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, failed to make an appearance at a state dinner marking the country’s Independence Day on Sunday.

According to a front-page report in the state-run New Light of Myanmar on Monday, the regime’s second highest-ranking member, Vice-Snr-Gen Maung Aye, and his wife Mya Mya San hosted the annual state dinner on behalf of Than Shwe and his wife, Kyaing Kyaing. No official explanation was given for the senior leader’s absence.

The dinner, held in the junta’s capital Naypyidaw, was also attended by third-ranking Gen Thura Shwe Mann, Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein, and another high-ranking general, Lt-Gen Thiha Thura Tin Maung Myint Oo.

Some observers suggested that Than Shwe’s absence was due to his reluctance to meet with foreign diplomats attending the event, as the regime has come under intense criticism from the international community over its latest crackdown on dissidents.

There was also speculation among Burma watchers about the state of Than Shwe’s health. In 2007, he missed the dinner because he was in Singapore for medical treatment. Now 75 years old, Than Shwe reportedly suffers from diabetes and hypertension. (so he is touch and go anytime... only if we get close to him could send him off hummm)

Despite persistent rumors of his failing health, however, the state-run media reported that Than Shwe traveled extensively in the final weeks of the year.

On December 13, he attended a graduation ceremony at the elite Defense Services Academy in Maymyo (also called Pyin Oo Lwin) in Mandalay Division. He made his last public appearance on December 30 as he was traveling to Zalun and Bassein townships in Irrawaddy Division.

His tour of the country ended with him paying his respects to Zalun’s Mahn Aung Myin Pyidawbyan Buddha statue, which is famous as a symbol of Burmese resistance to foreign pressure.

The Burmese word pyidawbyan means “return to the native land.” The British took the statue to India following their conquest of Lower Burma in 1855 and attempted to use it to make coins, ammunition and cannons. However, they were unable to break it down and returned it to Burma in 1857.

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