Author champions of the legacy of the former president, glosses on the challenges


Former Cabinet Minister U Soe Thane at the launch of his book on former President U Thein Sein in Yangon on June 2. / Aung Kyaw Htet / The Irrawaddy

Through Kyaw Phyo Tha June 5, 2018

YANGON – Long before their humiliating defeat in the 2015 election, a split in the leadership of the then ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) was an open secret.

To the embarrassment of most senior members, their president and lower house chairman was too close to the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, the country’s main opposition party, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi . The parliament he chaired complained that most of the bills and proposals submitted came from the USDP government led by U Thein Sein. Ultimately, two months before the election, the party chairman and his supporters were purged by the chairman, who claimed they were manipulative of party affairs. However, they made a comeback after the election.

But this time they were with the NLD.

So furious at their rejection of the party, a cabinet member of former Burmese President U Thein Sein called those who now hold high-ranking positions in the NLD government “traitors, foxes and foxes”.

In his book “Myanmar’s Transition & U Thein Sein: An Insider’s Account”, U Soe Thane, one of the former president’s confidants and former cabinet minister of the president, writes that some high-level USDP party leaders with more of 40 years of military service rendered to the opposition NLD, which had a much better chance of winning the 2015 elections.

“In fact, they were traitors, becoming renegades as they said cooperation was necessary for the good of the homeland and the compatriots,” writes the author, adding that “they were excellent suitors and could be likened to foxes … they were, in fact, great self-protectionists.

But the author did not mention who he was referring to.

“You will see (in the book) some factual details without mentioning the names of the people involved. As the author of the book, if I think their names should be said, I do. If I think it is not necessary, I leave them aside, ”said U Soe Thane, at the launch of the Burmese version of the book on Saturday in Yangon. The English version of the book was also launched in Singapore late last year.

“I have strong evidence for what I wrote,” he added.

Even though the former commander-in-chief of the navy does not mention the names of the defectors, some are no longer secret today in Myanmar.

Currently, the National League for Democracy led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has appointed U Aung Ko and U Thein Swe (both senior USDP officials) as Union ministers. U Shwe Mann, former USDP chairman purged by U Thein Sein and close ally of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is now chairman of the parliamentary advisory committee on special cases. All had senior military backgrounds.

In the book, the author, who is also a senior member of the USDP and a staunch supporter of U Thein Sein, says that the tension between the government of U Thein Sein and the USDP led by U Shwe Mann s ‘was heightened because of U Shwe Mann’s personal grudge against the former president. . The story dates back to 2011, when the previous military regime that had ruled the country for over 22 years chose U Thein Sein (a former general) to lead the country’s transition from military to quasi-civilian rule ( the majority of the cabinet were former military officials).

U Soe Thane said in the book that U Shwe Mann was widely approached for the presidency at the time and that he himself undoubtedly believed he would hold the highest office in the country. But it turned out that U Thein Sein became president and U Shwe Mann president of the lower house and president of the USDP.

“I didn’t know who made this decision. If one considers logically that the decision to appoint the president did not belong to U Thein Sein, one should not blame him. From that point on, U Shwe Mann and his supporters became somewhat irrational and their actions seemed to be more aimed at competing for power against U Thein Sein, ”he writes.

In addition to discussing the power struggle, including two failed attempts to impeach the president through parliament, the book mainly deals with U Thein Sein’s five-year tenure as president, as he attempted to reintroduce democratic standards in the country, which was under the military dictatorship. since 1962.

But readers should not be misled by the book’s subtitle “An Insider’s Account”. Rather than providing unpublished information about the president’s tenure, the memoirs are more of a promotional piece for the former general-turned-president whom the author admits in the preface to be a “president whom he greatly admires.”

During his five-year tenure, the ex-general was internationally applauded as a “reformist” for his reintroduction of democratic standards to the country. He invited the country’s armed ethnic groups who were at war with the central government for federalism to peace talks. Myanmar is no longer isolated from the outside world as it once was. Former US President Barack Obama has visited the country twice. U Soe Thane dutifully details all of these events, including the names of dignitaries U Thein Sein met on trips abroad and some of his speeches in their entirety. For this reason, the book might be of use to those interested in Myanmar affairs during this time.

However, the author does not provide an “insider story” on some difficult issues, such as why the administration of U Thein Sein has been unable to contain the racial and religious violence that has erupted. at least seven times across the country in 2012-2013. Regarding the suspension of the controversial Myitsone Dam project, the author is simply saying that China was not happy with the decision and U Thein Sein made a difficult choice. If you take the book to find out why the government has not taken seriously the rise of ultra-nationalism and nationalist groups like Ma Ba Tha, you are wasting your time. Curious about the Presidential Security Law which was hastily proposed by the administration of U Thein Sein before his term in office to protect the former head of state from prosecution for his actions during his tenure ? Forget that.

U Soe Thane said the message of the book was how to unleash political greed and get out of politics well. In the epilogue, he says that the most formidable power is political power, echoing the 19eQuote from British historian Lord Acton: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power absolutely corrupts.

“Politicians must be careful not to be too ambitious,” warns the author, possibly a reminder to U Shwe Mann and his supporters whom he calls “foxes, foxes and traitors”.

But he seems to be forgetting something. Almost a month after the election, U Thein Sein received Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to congratulate his electoral victory. U Soe Thane writes: “When she asked U Thein Sein to help her with the new government, he told her to be independent, saying he had his own job to get his party to win the next election.

Hopefully the former president is not overly ambitious, as his ardent supporter warns.


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Kevin E. Boling

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