Why did the aging despot General Than Shwe meet with Aung San Suu Kyi?
By Dr Maung Zarni
December 5, 2015
Senior General Than Shwe: Nga Ma Auo Thae Buu
The prevailing view is that the Old Man wants to ensure that in his final phase of life he is safe from any form of retribution, that his extended family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are safe and that their ill-gotten gains - estimated at $ billions - remain intact.
I am sure these are elements in Than Shwe's equation. But there is more to his move - that he met the woman whom he set out to destroy in his official stay in power - that is, almost 20 years.
Here is what I would SPECULATE:
1) Than Shwe is the Master Strategist, the scriptwriter and the director of the play "Discipline Flourishing Democracy".
2) As such, he knows his chess pieces/characters very well. he hand-picked a perfect man - Thein Sein, un assuming, non-threatening A Class Liar for the President post, stacked all key positions with the most subservient and loyal generals whom he had groomed and gave jump promotions (for instance, Min Aung Hlaing) and sidelined or bypassed the ambitious cameleon with rotten name - Thura Shwe Mann.
3) He has a perfect sense of timing: remember US Senator Jim Webb and Yattaw thingy? - when Obama was about to create the first major China Containment move (Asian Pivot or Rebalancing)?
4) He doesn't need assurances or security guarantees from Aung San Suu Kyi or any future elected government as long as his loyalists control the entire Security Sector; their personal control - and the military's institutional interets are guaranteed, constitutionally.
5) But what Than Shwe is ultimately after is this: THAN SHWE NEEDS TO SHOW THE WORLD WHO REALLY IS THE BOSS WHEN THE EVENTS ARE UNFOLDING SMOOTHLY AS HE IMAGED.
OF ALL PEOPLE, THAN SHWE - IF NOT HIS USDP STOOGES LIKE HTAY OO OR THEIN SEIN - MUST HAVE KNOWN AUNG SAN SUU KYI WOULD WIN HANDS DOWN IN ANY FREE VOTING PROCESS - IF NOT FREE AND FAIR ELECTION AS WE KNOW IT IN A LIBERAL DEMOCRACY.
HE WANTS TO TAKE THE CREDIT AS THE DICTATOR WHO FACILITATED THE SEMI-DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION.
But do NOT celebrate this as yet.
For the military's institutional interests are not necessarily coterminous with those of Than Shwe's family or personal interests. They will soon diverge - if the Old Man allow Aung San Suu Kyi to strip the military of any real power. That is unlikely to happen because the next generation of generals waiting in their wings are not going to wittingly and voluntarily let the democratization process to drastically curb their power, privileges and control.
The most important issue here to grasp is this:
Than Shwe-Aung San Suu Kyi meeting is about the Bama or dominant Burmese' interests intertwined with the interests of both Supreme Leaders.
As such structurally, neither non-Bama could see any shift in politics that will help them realize their dream of federalist Burma.
And for the Rohingya, the deal excludes their genocide.