BBC NEWS
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 08/98: Burma  
News Front Page
World
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
UK Politics
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Education
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
CBBC News
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Burma Friday, 14 August, 1998, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
The men in uniform
Ranking soldiers dominate the Burmese government
The soldiers who dominate the Burmese government
The group of generals that seized power in 1988 called itself the SLORC - the State Law and Order Restoration Council. It was a sinister name for a secretive and shadowy military body.

At the time SLORC announced that it would stay in power "until anarchy and demonstrations" could be brought under control.

Today the Burmese government is still headed by a soldier. He is General Than Shwe, the Prime Minister under whose rule articles have been introduced guaranteeing the miltary a leading role in government.

He heads a cabinet in which 28 out of 40 positions are held by ranking military officers.

Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw is the only civilian to hold a senior position.

Under military rule the army has become the dominant force in Burmese government. Over one third of the national budget is spent on the military and since 1988 its numbers have doubled to around 300,000.

Military strongman

At the core of military rule is the powerful secret police whose chief, Lt-General Khin Nyunt, has made himself the strongman of Burma's government. Many consider him to be more powerful than the prime minister, although officially he holds the title of first secretary.

Lt-General Khin Nyunt: Burma's strongman
Lt-General Khin Nyunt
Described by one Burma watcher as "dedicated, energetic, intelligent - and capable of extreme ruthlessness," Khin Nyunt is the protege of former Burmese dictator General Ne Win.

Although well into his 90s and ostensibly in retirement having after stepping down in 1988, Ne Win and his daughter Sanda Win are thought to have considerable influence over the current government.

Having led the country and the army for 26 years, Ne Win has built a web of loyal associates. One writer has described him as "the supreme patron in a land of patron-client relationships."

Military makeover

Leading a younger generation of military top brass, Khin Nyunt has recently led a campaign to rid the government of overt corruption, revitalise the flagging economy and polish up the government's image abroad.

After consultation with a Washington-based public-relations firm, in late 1997 it was announced that the SLORC was no more, replaced by the less intimidating sounding State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

The subtleties in the name change are not hard to interpret. "The restoration of law and order is a temporary task," a Bangkok-based Asian diplomat said at the time.

"But peace - meaning defence - and development are permanent duties."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC News
Ken Weidman, US Embassy Rangoon: the authorities say they are "vigilant and concerned" about the anniversary
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Burma stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Burma stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
UK Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes