BURMA ALERT - No. 03/03
The Burma Alert is published
by the Associates to Develop Democratic Burma Inc, Canada, in cooperation with the Euro-Burma
BURMA'S RULERS - I
NOTE: Early historical
dates below are from G E Harvey's "History of Burma", 1925.
Rakhaing rajas (Arakan
kings) were said to have ruled in western Burma from 2666 BC. Based on medallions,
they certainly ruled from 146 AD until 1785.
Circa 500 AD - earliest
inscriptions describe a Pyu (now extinct)
754 - Nanchao (Shan?) kings ruled the upper Irrawaddy until 1253.
825 - Mon kings ruled lower Burma until they were conquered in 1757.
1044 - Burman
kings (A-naw-rah-ta) ruled from Pagan until 1287.
1287 - Shan kings ruled Burma from Ava,
Pegu and Toungoo until
1531 - Burman
kings (Ta-bin-shwe-hti) ruled from Toungoo until 1752.
1752 - Burman kings (A-laung-pa-ya) ruled from Shwebo until 1824.
1824 - British annexation of Burma and neighbouring principalities
1886 - The Burman
kingdom was annexed to British India. Shan and Wa
states became British Protectorates and Kachin and Chin Hills were administered separately.
1875 - Western Karenni
states were recognized as sovereign states.
1937 - British Burma was separated from British India.
1942 - Japanese occupation of Burma.
1945 - The British returned to Burma.
1947 - Panglong
Agreement - to merge Ministerial Burma, the Federated Shan States, and the Kachin and Chin Hills in order to gain independence from
1948 - The democratic Republic of the
Union of Burma was governed by the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League
(AFPFL) led by Prime Minister U Nu.
1958 - General Ne
Win was appointed by U Nu to head a 'Caretaker'
1960 - U Nu's
'Clean' AFPFL won the general elections and ruled until 1962.
1962 - General Ne
Win seized power and ruled
through the Revolutionary Council.
1974 - Ne
Win adopted a new constitution and continued to rule through the Burmese
Socialist Programme Party.
NOTE: The Arakan State, Chin State, Kachin State, Karen State, Kayah /Karenni State, Mon State, and Shan State were recognized as administrative
units in the BSPP constitution.
1988 - General Saw Maung took over from the BSPP and ruled
through the State Law and Order Restoration Council.
1992 - General Than
Shwe took over from General Saw Maung as SLORC
1997 - Than Shwe
transformed the SLORC into the State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
THE SPDC, CABINET MINISTERS, & REGIONAL COMMANDERS
The War Office (Ministry of
Defense) is the epicenter of power in Burma. Cabinet ministers have little
power but their permit granting ability enables them get rich. Less lucrative
ministries are assigned to retired officers or civilians. Regional commanders
have troops and can make deals with businessmen but their power is localized.
In 1988, SLORC was a
careful balance of War Office staff officers and regional commanders of similar
seniority (except Khin Nyunt and Tin Oo, who were junior). The original power
configuration favoured the War Office as the cabinet
consisted of WO officers and no regional commanders.
SLORC = 10
WO + 9 RC = 19
ministries) = 7 WO members + 2 other officers = 9
= 19 + 2 ministers = 21.
SLORC had originally
intended to hand over power to a new elected government but support from
neighbouring countries, the flood of foreign direct investments, and the loss
of the 1990 elections, encouraged SLORC to continue ruling.
In 1992, SLORC
expanded under Than Shwe. The cabinet also expanded
with civilians, officers and retired officers. This was seen as an attempt to
cope with the workload created by opening up the economy to foreign investors.
SL = 7 WO +
4 exWO + 8 RC + 2 exRC = 21
ministries) = 3 WO + 4 exWO + 7 offs + 3 civs + 11 deputy = 28
= 21 + 21 others = 42.
1995 saw a re-organization with the
promotion of Maung Aye from regional commander to Vice-Chair of SLORC. In a
major shift, new regional commanders were not appointed as members of SLORC.
Former regional commanders remained members of SLORC and were given cabinet
posts, which were lucrative. The corruption this arrangement unleashed caused
concern amongst the new regional commanders who were left out
SLORC = 5
WO + 7 exWO + 9 exRC = 21
ministries) = 1 WO + 5 exWO + 8 exRC
+ 18 offs + 4 civs + 24 dty
= 21 + 46 others = 67.
In 1997, all SLORC
members except four were replaced. The SPDC was formed with all 12 regional
commanders, shifting the power balance away from the War Office. The cabinet
was expanded to accommodate other officers.
SPDC = 7 WO
+ 12 RC = 19 members
ministries) = 1 WO + 6 exWO + 4 exRC
+ 27 offs + 4 civs + 24 dty
= 19 SP + 65 other = 84.
In 2002, the SPDC
was reduced to 13 and reorganized, again shifting power away from the regional
commanders as in 1995. This time the War Office was strengthened with SPDC
members holding new positions created to consolidate power in the hands of the
SPDC = 13
ministries) = 1 WO + 30 offs + 4 civs + 42 deputy =
= 13 SP + 76 = 89.
The current members of the
Senior General Than Shwe
OTS.9) who is also -
- Prime Minister,
- Defense Minister, and
- Commander-in-Chief (Def.Ser)
He is 70 years old (2
He was born in Kyaukse, Mandalay Division, and is a
graduate of Kyaukse Government High School. He worked as a postal clerk in Meiktila in 1952. After Officer Training School, he was commissioned a 2nd
Lieut on 9 July 1953 with the 1st BuRegt (Min Hla, LID-66). He then spent 5 years in
Psychological Warfare units and taught for 4 years at the Central School of
Political Science. He saw active service with the LID-77 (Pegu)
in 1967 and with the LID-88 (Magwe) from 1971. In
July 1983, he was commander, South-West Command (Bassein)
and was promoted Brig-Gen in Aug 1984. In 1988 he was a Lieut-Gen
and a Central Executive Committee member of the Burmese Socialist Programme Party and held the posts of Chair, Irrawaddy Division BSPP and Deputy Defense Minister. After
SLORC took-over, he became Vice-Chair and in 1990 became the Commander-in-Chief
of the Army with the rank of full General. He took over from General Saw Maung
on 23 April 1992 and promoted himself to Senior General in Oct 1993. Than Shwe is reputedly close to U Kyaw
Win, a.k.a. Shwe Than Lwin Kyaw Win, the majority
shareholder in the Cooperative Development Bank. Than Shwe and his family are reported to own a chain of doughnut
shops and a soft-drink factory. He is married to Daw Kyaing
Kyaing, a Pa-O ethnic national.
to talk on the streets of Rangoon, Than Shwe believes that Burma is prospering
economically and does not need to change. He is supposedly an indecisive man
who depends on astrological signs to make decisions. He apparently believes his
wife's star is on the rise, his grandson is a "min laung"
- saviour-king, and that he does not need to talk to
democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. According to Larry Jagan
of the British Broadcasting Corporation, he hates her.
General Maung Aye
DSA.1). He is also -
- Deputy Commande-in-Chief (Def.Ser)
- Commander-in Chief (Army).
He is 65
years old (25 Dec 1937). He was born in Kon Balu and joined the Army in
1959. He holds a B.Sc. from the Defense Service Academy. He commanded the LIB-68 (Lashio, NE Com) in 1975, the LID-77 (Pegu) in 1982, North-Eastern Command (Lashio)
in 1985, and was promoted Brig-Gen and appointed commander of the Eastern
Command (Taunggyi) in 1988. When Than Shwe took over from Saw Maung in 1992, he left the position
of SLORC Vice-Chair and Commander-in-Chief (Army) vacant for over a year,
causing intense speculation about Maung Aye's future. Maung Aye was finally
promoted to Lieut-General and appointed to his
current military positions in 1993. He became Vice-Chair of SLORC only in 1994.
As commander of the NE and E Commands, Maung Aye is reputed to have built
strong ties with 'influential businessmen' in Shan State. These include Saya
Kyaung, a.k.a. Aung Ko Win, President of Kanbawza
Bank; and Kyaw Win, President of Mayflower Bank, who
is close to both drug lord Khun Sa and the leadership
of the United Wa State Army - Burma's prime drug producers. Maung Aye
was hospitalized in Singapore in March 2003 for a prostrate
problem. He is married to Daw Mya Mya San.
Maung Aye is supposedly
an apolitical professional soldier who yearns for the good old BSPP days when
life was less complicated and Burma was 'self-sufficient' and isolated.
It is said that ASSK would prefer to deal with a professional military man like
OTS.25). He is also -
- Chief of Military Intelligence,
- Chairman of national committees ranging from Health,
and Education, to the Central Supervisory Committee for Ensuring Smooth
& Secure Transport, and the Leading Committee for the Promotion of
Tourism Industry between the Union of Maynmar
and the People's Republic of China, and
- Patron, Myanmar National Committee for Women's
He is 64 years old (11
He was born in Kyauktan. Khin Nyunt passed
Intermediate B at Rangoon University and joined the Army. After Officer Training School, he saw active service with the 20th
Battalion in 1960, LID-77 (Pegu), the LIR-20 (Nyaunglebin, LID-77) in 1978, and the LID-44 (Thaton) in 1982. In between service in the field he also
served as GSO-2 (1970s) and GSO-1 Bureau of Special Operations (1980s) in the
War Office. A Ne Win protégé, he was recalled to the
capital in July 1984 to take-over and re-organize the
Military Intelligence Service after North Korean secret agents assassinated
four visiting South Korean cabinet ministers and thirteen officials in Rangoon. In 1988, Khin Nyunt was a Brig-Gen
and became SLORC Secretary-1. He is said to be the brains behind the SLORC
take-over and the cease-fire agreements with ethnic nationalities armies in
1989 which prevented the ex-Communist Party of Burma troops from joining the democracy
movement. In 1998, he publicly disowned his son, Ye Naing
Win for marrying a foreigner - a Singaporean. As Military Intelligence Chief
since 1984, Khin Nyunt is reputed to have also built strong ties with
'influential businessmen'. These include Aik Tun, Vice Chairman and de facto CEO of Asia Wealth Bank,
who is said to be connected to the Kokang drug
circle; Thein Tun, Chairman
of Tun Foundation Bank; and Thein
Wei, a.k.a. Serge Pun, President of Yoma Bank. Khin Nyunt is said to own shares in hotels, and
in construction and publishing ventures. He is married to Dr Daw Khin Win Shwe. She is the the Leading
Patron of the Myanmar Medical Association (Women's Chapter) and Vice-Chair of
the Myanmar Maternity and Child Welfare Association.
Khin Nyunt is supposedly
the general who realizes the extent of the problems Burma is facing and the need to engage
ASSK in a dialogue but she apparently does not want to negotiate with Military
Intelligence. His influence is also said to have waned after the SPDC moved
against Ne Win in 2002.
DSA.12). He is also -
- Air Defense General, War Office (new position created
Soe Win was appointed Secretary-2 on 1
Feb 2003 to
replace Lieut-General Tin Oo, who was killed in a
helicopter crash in Feb 2001. Deputy Intelligence Chief Major-General Kyaw Win had said on 17 Nov 2001 that the position would not be
filled. Soe Win has been very active in the Union
Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the SPDC's
civilian arm and Than Shwe's pet project. He has said
that the SPDC will not talk to ASSK and never hand over power to the NLD. He
has also said that the SPDC does not need to fear the US because of China. In 1988, Soe
Win commanded LIR-207 (Theinzeik, LID-22) under BG
Tin Hla (Minister for Military Affairs, 1997-2002). LID-22 was the unit
responsible for the crackdown against the 1988 democracy uprising. In 1990 Soe Win served as the Tactical Operations Commander-3 of
the North Western Command under Lieut-Gen Kyaw Min (Minister for Mines, 1995-2002). He then commanded
the LID-66 (Prome) in 1995. He was promoted to
Brig-General, commanded the North Western Command (Monywa)
and became a member of the SPDC in 1997. Soe Win’s
contemporaries in the DSA were: Lieut-Gen ‘Thiha-Thura’ Tin Aung Myint Oo, Quarter-Master-General; Maj-Gen Lun Maung,
Inspector-General; and Col. Thein Nyunt, Minister for
the Development of Border Areas.
NEXT GENERATION - Shwe Mann, Ye Myint, Aung Htwe,
Khin Maung Than, Maung Bo, Thein Sein, Tin Aung Myint
Oo, Tin Aye and Kyaw Win.
Sources: ABSDF, ADDB, Burma Fund, Irrawaddy, New Light of Myanmar, NCGUB, NDD, and Patriotic War
Veterans of Burma.