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(09/19/88) Saw Maung Took Bloody Co
- Subject: (09/19/88) Saw Maung Took Bloody Co
- From: waterly@xxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 09 May 1997 17:17:00
Subject: (09/19/88) Saw Maung Took Bloody Coup
The Associated Press
September 19, 1988, Monday, PM cycle
HEADLINE: Saw Maung: Hardline Commander And Longtime Loyalist of Ne Win
BYLINE: By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: BANGKOK, Thailand
Gen. Saw Maung, leader of a military coup that has led to renewed bloodshed
in Burma, is a hardliner who has loyally taken orders from strongman Ne Win
throughout most of his 39-year military career.
Citing mounting chaos, Saw Maung on Sunday ousted civilian President Maung
Maung, set up a "Peace Restoration Committee" with himself as chairman,
abolished most organs of state and imposed a curfew on Rangoon, the capital.
Saw Maung promised multiparty general elections when order was restored,
but people took to the streets of Rangoon today to protest his seizure of power,
and troops fired on them, reportedly killing dozens.
Most protesters were unarmed.
Analysts had never ruled out the possibility of a coup by the 186,000-strong
armed forces, the only well organized group left in Burma. But events had
appeared to be moving toward a compromise between opposition leaders and the
entrenched old guard.
Though little is known about Saw Maung, he is widely considered close to
both Ne Win and the ruthless former President Sein Lwin. Many Western diplomats
in Rangoon believe both men remain the key power brokers in Burma, despite their
Saw Maung, 59, was named defense minister July 27 in Sein Lwin's
government, which subsequently ordered troops to gun down unarmed protesters.
Faced by huge, national demonstrations, Sein Lwin resigned Aug. 12 after 17 days
in power, but Saw Maung maintained both his defense portfolio and post as head
of the armed forces.
His close association with Sein Lwin, described by opponents as "the most
hated man in Burma," may have helped provoke today's displays of outrage on
Saw Maung was also criticized earlier by key opposition figure Aung Gyi for
bypassing the prescribed chain-of-command when he ordered the 44th Light
Infantry Division into Rangoon in March to put down student-led demonstrations
with brutal force.
"He lacks the intellectual gifts of his predecessors at that post and,
therefore, is seen as easily manipulated by the two top leaders," wrote Burma
expert Bertil Lintner in a recent issue of the Hong Kong-based news magazine Far
Eastern Economic Review.
Orders from the top men - Ne Win and Sein Lwin - are normally executed by
Saw Maung's deputy, Maj. Gen. Than Shwe, who Lintner described as "a ruthless
field commander who is more feared than respected by his subordinates."
Than Shwe was listed in the No. 2 position on the 19-member Peace Restoration
According to official records, Saw Maung was born in Mandalay and studied
at a high school in that former royal capital.
He joined the army in 1949, one year after Burma gained independence from
Britain. Although he was not of Ne Win's generation, which fought first against
the British and then the Japanese in World War II, Saw Maung appeared to have
gained the general's favor.
By 1967, five years after Ne Win's military coup against a democratically
elected government, Saw Maung became a battalion commander and major. From
1975 to 1976 he headed the 99th Light Infantry Division, which fought communist
insurgents and ethnic minority Kachin rebels in remote frontier areas.
An alleged coup attempt by some military officers against Ne Win in 1976 saw
a major purge of army ranks. "Those who stayed on and did well had to prove
their loyalty," notes Josef Silverstein, a Burma scholar at New Jersey's Rutgers
University. The Associated Press, September 19, 1988
Saw Maung was rewarded in 1976 with the Southwest Command, one of nine
regional military commands in Burma. He held the position until 1981 when he
became the adjutant general.
Two years later he was named army commander, or the vice chief of staff for
the army in Burma, and deputy defense minister. He was promoted to chief of
staff, or armed forces commander, in 1985.