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Ne Win's age and influence remain u

Subject: Ne Win's age and influence remain unclear

Ne Win's age and influence remain unclear

The Straits Times
Friday, Jun 11, 1999

Bangkok -- Retired General Ne Win, the architect of military rule in
Myanmar, is said to be turning 90 tomorrow but his birthday, like his role
in the country's contemporary political morass, remains a closely-guarded

One diplomat in Yangon said the former military strongman's 90th birthday
was June 12, but the date and his age remained unconfirmed. Other sources
said he should turning 88 this year.

Nevertheless, the rumours have prompted Myanmar watchers to revisit the
question of just how much Gen Ne Win, who has not been seen in public for
two years, still influences the present regime and whether his death will
loosen the military's vice-like grip on power.

"What happens when he dies will depend very much on the influence he has
now," said Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. "There are those
who say he is too old to play a part in politics and those who say he's the
one doing everything. These are just rumours."

Gen Ne Win officially ruled Myanmar as President from 1962, when he led a
group of 17 generals in a coup against then Prime Minister U Nu, until he
retired in 1981. But he remain leader of the governing Burma Socialist
Programme Party until his sudden resignation in July 1988 amid a democracy
uprising which left thousands of demonstrators dead and a new junta in power.

In his resignation speech he reportedly said: "When the army shoots, it
shoots to hit."

The events of 1988 were the product of mounting frustration at his
policies. His national-socialist ideology, stepped in religion and an
uncompromising faith in self-reliance turned Myanmar from the rice bowl of
South-east Asia to one of the world's most isolated and impoverished states.

Despite his obvious weaknesses as an administrator, his peers regard him
with almost spiritual respect. (AFP)
Burma Info(CCN)