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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 10:12 GMT
Former Burma dictator Ne Win dies
Ne Win in 1997
Ne Win had become an isolated figure in recent years
Burma's former military dictator, General Ne Win, has died while under house arrest, family sources have said.

Family members said the 91-year-old died at 0730 local time (0100 GMT) at his home in the capital Rangoon, where he had been held alongside his daughter since March, after the arrest of other relatives on treason charges.

He was cremated within hours, without any military honours, and in the presence of about 25 relatives and friends.

No senior members of the military government were present.

Ne Win suffered a heart attack in September 2001, and had not been seen in good health for more than 18 months.

Ne Win came to power in a bloodless coup in 1962 and stayed in power until overthrown in 1988 amid massive pro-democracy rallies.

Food stalls in Burma
Ne Win was blamed for Burma's descent into poverty

A source close to his family said that his death had been expected for some time.

The BBC's Larry Jagan in Bangkok says the overwhelming response in Burma is likely to be one of suppressed euphoria, for Ne Win is considered to be responsible for the country's economic woes.

Although Ne Win's military leadership in 1948 - when the country was in the turmoil of civil war - may well have prevented the country fragmenting along ethnic lines, after coming to power he presided over a significant decline in the country's prosperity.

Mythological image

His image has become discredited as a result, although his apparent longevity - both physical and political - did inspire awe among some Burmese.

Although the army junta that seized power after the upheavals of 1988 were Ne Win protegees, his influence slipped steadily throughout the 1990s.

Ne Win's reclusive life after his retirement from politics in 1988 spawned various tales of his racy love life and eccentric behaviour.

He is reported to have been obsessed with numerology and once caused economic havoc by introducing banknotes in 45- and 90- kyat denominations because they were divisible by his lucky number - nine.

Ne Win's personal fortunes finally dipped to their lowest ebb when he was placed under house arrest and charges were laid against three family members for trying to undermine the government.

His son-in-law, Aye Zaw Win - the husband of Ne Win's daughter Sandar Win - and the couple's three sons, Aye Ne Win, Kyaw Ne Win, and Zwe Ne Win, were sentenced to death for treason on 26 September. They have appealed.

Observers remain sceptical that Ne Win's family members were really plotting a coup, and suspect the allegations have more to do with conflicts within the military leadership.

Analysts have suggested that the military regime had been waiting until Ne Win died before taking action against Sandar Win, too.

The BBC's Larry Jagan in Bangkok
"General Ne Win ruled Burma for nearly three decades"

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