Friday, December 2, 2011

Than Shwe

Senior General Than Shwe (born 3 February 1933) is a Burmese military leader and politician who was chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) from 1992 to 2011. During the period, he held key positions of power including commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces and head of Union Solidarity and Development Association. In 2011, he officially resigned from his position as head of state, in favor of his hand-picked successor, Thein Sein.

Early life
Than Shwe was born in Minzu village, near Kyaukse, British Burma in 1933. In 1951, Than Shwe attended Government High School in Kyaukse. He took up employment at the Meikhtila Post Office as a postal clerk in 1952. Later he enlisted in the Burmese Army and was in the ninth intake of Army Officer Training School.

Military career and rise to power
After graduating from the Officer Training School, Second Lieutenant Than Shwe was posted to No. 1 Infantry Battalion as a squad leader on 11 July 1953. He was promoted to platoon commander with the rank of Lieutenant on 11 July 1955 and to Company Commander with the rank of Captain in 21 February 1957 in the same battalion. He was involved in military operation carried out by No. 1 Infantry Battalion in Karen State, Southern Shan State and Eastern Thanlwin area.

On 26 February 1958, Than Shwe was transferred to the newly established Directorate of Education and Psychological warfare within the War Office. He was posted as a Company Commander to No. 1 Psychological Warfare Battalion under Northern Regional Military Command on 9 December 1961. He became Psychological Warfare Officer of 3rd Infantry Brigade on 4 December 1961. On 18 December 1963, he was transferred to Central Political College as an instructor. He was posted to 101 Light Infantry Battalion as a temporary company commander for battalion headquarter unit.

Than Shwe was promoted to the rank of Major and posted to the 77th Light Infantry Division on 27 January 1969. He was involved in various military operations carried out by the 77th in Karen Sate, Irrawady Delta region and Bago Hills. He was transferred to Operations Planning Department within the Office of Chief of Staff (ARMY) as a General Staff Officer (G2) on 16 December, 1969.

He became a temporary commander of No. 1 Infantry Battalion on 23 August 1971 and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel on 7 September 1972. As the commanding officer of No. 1 Infantry Battalion, he was involved in offensive operations against various insurgents carried out by the 88th Light Infantry Division in Bhamo region, northern Shan State, southern Shan State, and eastern Shan State. He was transferred back to Operations Planning Department within the Office of Chief of Staff (ARMY) as a General Staff Officer (G1) on 4 August 1975. On 26 March 1977, Than Shwe became a colonel and deputy commander of the 88th Light Infantry Division on 2 May 1978.

Than Shwe became commanding officer of the 88th on 29 March 1980. He oversaw the various operation such as Operation Ye Naing Aung, Operation Nay Min Yang and Operation Min Yan Aung carried out by the 88th. In 1981, Than Shwe was elected as a member of the ruling Burma Socialist Programme Party's Central Executive Committee during the fourth session of Party's conference.

He was posted to the South Western Regional Military Command as the commanding officer on 22 July 1983 and subsequently became chairman of Irrawaddy Division Party Committee on 5 August 1983. He became a brigadier general on 16 August 1984. Than Shwe became Vice Chief of Staff (ARMY) on 4 November 1985.

Than Shwe was promoted to the rank of major general on 4 November 1986 and to the rank of lieutenant general on 4 November 1987. He became Deputy Minister of Defence on 27 July 1988.

After the military coup on 18 September 1988 after the democracy uprising of 1988, Than Shwe became Vice Chairman of State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), 21-member military cabinet headed by General Saw Maung. He was promoted to the rank of full General and became Vice Commander in Chief of Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) and Commander in Chief of Myanmar Army on 18 March 1990.

On 23 April 1992, Senior General Saw Maung unexpectedly resigned citing health reasons, Than Shwe elevated himself to the rank of Senior General and replaced Senior General Saw Maung as head of State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and Commander in Chief of Myanmar Armed Forces.

Health and Family
Than Shwe's wife, Kyaing Kyaing, is an ethnic Pa-O. They have five daughters, Aye Aye Thit Shwe, Dewa Shwe, Khin Pyone Shwe, Kyi Kyi Shwe, and Thandar Shwe, and three sons, Kyaing San Shwe, Thant Zaw Shwe and Htun Naing Shwe. Than Shwe is known to be a diabetic, and he is rumored to have intestinal cancer. He rarely makes public appearances.

Than Shwe flew to Singapore on 31 December 2006. Concerns about Than's health intensified after he failed to appear at an official Independence Day dinner for military leaders, officials, and diplomats on 4 January 2007. It was the first time since he took power in 1992 that Than did not host the annual dinner. Than Shwe had checked out of Singapore's General Hospital, where he had been receiving treatment, and returned to Burma two weeks later.

In 2006, a home video footage of the wedding of Than Shwe's daughter, Thandar Shwe, was leaked on the Internet, which sparked controversy and criticism from Burmese and foreign media for the lavish and seemingly ostentatious reception.

After days of anti-government protests, there were unconfirmed reports that Than Shwe's wife and pets fled the country on 27 September 2007, possibly to Laos.

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