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Ne Win's dangerous legacy

Ne Win's dangerous legacy
by U Aung Kin
26th May 1999

The news report from Tokyo that two Burmese democratic activists were
badly beaten up by some staff members of Burmese embassy at the Tokyo
concert on 23rd May accidentally laid bare what stuff Burmese diplomats
are made of. These so-called diplomats have all the marks of Ne Win's
unflinching henchmen also known as military intelligence
personnel(MI-goons) who are allowed to break all laws in Burma with

The MI was and is a law unto itself?answerable only to Ne Win (and Khin
Nyunt). They started their careers as Ne Win bodyguards capable of
making the murder look like an accident and they have now become a
government within the government. But they must not be allowed to export
their thuggery abroad and get away with it. It is high time that
international community gave them a bloody good hiding. With these
so-called Burmese diplomats the Japanese government must make its stand
now because if you gave them an inch they will ride roughshod over all
of your decent international custom,tradition and principles in taking
the proverbial mile.

The MI-goons take great delight in ill-treating and beating up other
people. A motley nature of Ne Win have finally coalesced to form a
wicked policy in the military intelligence department.Thuggery is part
of Ne Win's character. He was a roughneck footballer to whom
sportsmanship was an anathema. Even when he became a septuagenarian he
still relished the memory of his student days when he manhandled other
players in football matches. In 1965 during the state dinner celebrating
the conclusion of the annual research congress, Ne Win, with the help
from his MI-goons, beat the living daylights out of four university
lecturers for no apparent reason. 

Even as an old man Ne Win had not been averse to using his fists. In
January 1976, Ne Win (still President), accompanied by a group of armed
MI-goons, burst into a New Year party at an exclusive Inya Lake Hotel in
Rangoon and beat up a number of people including a Norwegian aid

official.  Ne Win also beat up the drummer of the band and pierced the
skins of his drums. Nobody seemed to know why Ne Win, behaving like a
gangster in a mafia movie, broke up the party. Some said Ne Win went

wild over his daughter attending the party. It also appeared that Ne
Win, who lived nearby, simply wanted a good night's rest and the band
was disturbing him. 

Ne Win was renowned for his quick temper and the use of strongarm
methods in dealing with people. There were many other well known
instances where Ne Win and his MI-goons had beaten of the people's
brians out. They looked and behaved like the sub-Chicago gangsters they
have proved to be. So one can imagine what will happen if the whole
officer corps look up to them and copy.

In order to prove his superiority Ne Win had frequently acted
irrationally and he seems to have a powerful urge to act in
unaccountable ways?a legacy he later bequeathed to his military
intelligence personnel (MI-goons). For instance,the MI-goons put forward
absurd ideas (in attacking Daw Aung San Suu Kyi & NLD) that defied all
reason in an effort to claim or prove their superior physical power. So
people in Burma have usually come to believe that the more ridiculous
the opinions the more powerful the man.

The Burma army is infected with the arrogance of power and they will use
it to any extent. Many years under Ne Win's leadership has created a
very selfish major interest group strongly protective of their interests
and actively seeking monetary rewards for the power they enjoy.  Ne Win
has always been able to recruit people whose craving for power outruns
morality, let alone common sense.  Fortunately for him, the Burma army
has always provided him with a fresh crop of military boneheads who are
loud in their praise for him. With parochial loyalty, acceptance of
blind obedience to Ne Win (and now to his MI-goons) has become ingrained
in the Burmese military minds Accordingly they have come to believe that
dialogue,discussion, reconciliation, and democcracy represent the
greatest danger to their entrenched position. The military elite's
perspective of reality is heavily clouded by fear for their

They all thoroughly realize that they have to make hay while the
brilliant sun (Nay Win)shines. And while making hay they have bled the
nation white.  They and the class they have created are getting richer
and richer and the people are getting poorer and poorer. And recent
Burmese history has shown that the burdens of military rule in whatever
shape or form have far outweighed the benefits.

To the Burmese military, Ne Win is still their undisputed leader. It is
a case of charismatic legitimacy and charisma by definition is personal,
not institutional? it is not likely to persist. But as long as Ne Win
lives, the army is unlikely to want a change in the regime.  They have
prospered under his auspices.  Ne Win has created one law for his
sidekicks and another for the people. In fact, it is a kind of
guilt-sharing scheme,in which every privileged military officer is
guilty of plundering the country, or a bribe-into-silence system
pioneered by Ne Win himself. 

The fact that the replacement of General Saw Maung by General Than Shwe
was officially announced in a declaration signed by Major-General Khin
Nyunt, a junior officer in the military leadership line-up, had already

signified that Ne Win's pocket army (MI-goons) is the most powerful
force in the regime. The belief in the necessity of a pocket army of
thugs as a foundation for one's success is the most dangerous legacy.
This pocket army (military intelligence department) is now widely
regarded as extremely irresponsible and getting far too big for its

The yesterday that made Burma what it is today. And the today that makes
Burma what it will be tomorrow. 

(©DVB, Oslo)