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If the death and destitution of uncounted multitudes of his citizens trouble Than Shwe's conscience, the public will never know. For the armour-plated general – who started his career as a humble postal clerk – maintains a secretive regime of fear, in which all authority is held in his hands, friends as well as foes are under strict surveillance and the army is a powerful presence in almost every facet of life.
While millions struggled to fill their daily rice bowls, he celebrated his daughter's wedding with a multi-million-dollar feast, the bride encrusted in jewels and an ocean of champagne flowing for applauding guests.
"He has reasserted a typically Burman history of Burma," says Justin Wintle, a British historian and biographer, referring to the country's dominant ethnic group. "Strong kings were warrior kings. They behaved appallingly to their subjects, and he is in that line."
"And there he plays out his tragic drama of domination over a people he largely considers The Enemy, convinced that the slightest sign of opposition will undermine his vision of a unified, and subjugated, state. It's a paranoid view that makes democracy a foe to be fought to the death".
On 8 August 1988 (8.8.88), the army opened fire on student-led pro-democracy demonstrations that had started in Yangon and then spread throughout the country, killing approximately 3,000 people. As the new governing body of the country, army leaders General Saw Maung and Brigadier General Khin Nyunt created the "State Law and Order Restoration Council" (SLORC).
Originally posted by masqua
...this man revels in the misery of his people. It's something he does because he figures it proper and historically correct.
Amazing in this day and age, don't you agree?
In an action that Burma watchers view as long overdue, the United States earlier this week slapped financial sanctions on wealthy Burmese businessman Lo Hsing Han, his US-educated son, Steven Law and Law’s wife, Cecilia Ng, a Singaporean businesswoman.
At least 10 Singaporean companies owned by Law’s wife have been targeted by the sanctions. Among other things, the sanctions point up the often-unhealthy way the Singaporean government chooses to ignore relationships between its financial community and unsavory Burmese businessmen. Because of the ties to Lo’s main corporate vehicle, Asia World Co. Ltd, the story also illustrates graphically the narco-state that Burma’s rulers have visited upon the world stage.
The saga of how Lo and his son acquired their fortune and the outward trappings of respectability has many twists and turns including several brushes with death. Lo, 70 or 73 years old depending on the source, began in the drug trade in 1960 when he organized a local militia in the Kokang area of Shan State. The government turned a blind eye to Lo’s drug trafficking in exchange for his assistance in fighting Shan insurgents. He was dubbed the “King of Opium” by US authorities in the 1970s.
Although the Money Authority of Singapore is unlikely to advise banks to cut ties with Burmese firms as a result of the US sanctions, some analysts believe Singaporean banks are taking steps to restrict their links to Burmese companies. The refusal of Singaporean banks to deal with Burmese tycoon Tay Za’s Air Bagan airline is seen as a possible example of this. In addition, in late October 2007 the Irrawaddy magazine reported that bank transfers between United Overseas Bank of Singapore and Burma had been suspended temporarily. The risks to their banking relationships with the US may be forcing Singaporean banks to re-evaluate doing business with Burmese firms.
...referring to junta cronies like Tay Za and the druglord Lo Hsing Han. Lo is an ethnic Chinese, from Burma’s traditionally Chinese-populated and opium-rich Kokang region in the country’s east, bordering China. Lo controls a massive heroin empire, and one of Burma’s biggest companies, Asia World, which the US Drug Enforcement Agency describes as a front for his drug-trafficking. Asia World controls toll roads, industrial parks and trading companies. Singapore is the Lo family’s crucial window to the world, controlling a number of companies there. His son Steven, who has been denied a visa to the US because of his links to the drug trade, even married a Singaporean, Cecilia Ng, and the two reportedly control a Singapore-based trading house, Kokang Singapore Pte Ltd. The couple transit Singapore at will. A former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Robert Gelbard, has said that half of Singapore’s investments in Burma “have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han.”
Romantically-linked to a daughter of junta leader Than Shwe, Tay Za is also well known in Singapore. He had his fleet of Ferraris, Lexus’ and Mercedes shipped in from there. When on the island, he likes to stay at the Meritus Mandarin hotel on Orchard Rd, close to the excellent Singapore hospitals favored by his senior military patrons in Burma. Tay Za was all over the Singapore media last year toasting the launch of his new airline, Air Bagan, with the head of Singapore’s aviation authority. Dissident groups say the trade-off for Tay Za’s government business contracts in Burma is to fund junta leaders’ medical trips to Singapore.
Government business-technocrats in Singapore were also closely – and perhaps nervously — monitoring the brutality underway in Rangoon. And, were they so inclined, their influence could go a long way to limiting the misery being inflicted on Burma’s 54 million people.
Collectively known as “Singapore Inc,” they tend to gather around the $150 billion state-owned investment house Temasek Holdings, controlled by a member of Singapore’s long-ruling Lee family, Ho Ching, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Singapore companies have been some of the biggest investors in and supporters of Burma’s military junta, while its government, in the rare times it is asked, suggests a softly-softly diplomatic approach toward the junta. Tiny Singapore ranks alongside China and Thailand as Burma’s biggest trading partners.
When it comes to Burma, Singapore pockets the high morals it likes to wave at the West elsewhere. Singapore’s one-time head of foreign trade once said as his country was building links with Burma in the mid 1990’s; “while the other countries are ignoring it, it's a good time for us to go in….you get better deals, and you're more appreciated... Singapore's position is not to judge them and take a judgmental moral high ground.”