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Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma's Tyrant Paperback – 27 Aug 2010
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The outlines of Than Shwe's life and rise from obscure origins as a rural postal clerk and later as a member of the military's Psychological Warfare Department to a deeply superstitious and reclusive head of state are reported as solidly as possible for such an elusive and undocumented subject by Benedict Rogers….Source: The New York Review of Books
The just published book about Senior General Than Shwe, Union of Myanmar's secretive leader of the military government, is timely and overdue.Author: Reinhard Hohler Source: Chiang Mai
.. a timely account of the awfulness of the regime he heads, whose leaders seem sure to continue to hold real power even after a stage-managed election in November.Source: The Economist
Rogers deserves credit for trying to illuminate a secretive life.Source: Time
In this path-breaking book, Benedict Rogers shines a light into some of the darkest corners of Burma's military dystopia, and in so doing exposes the cunning rise of a man who wraps himself in the trappings of Burma's ancient kings. Meticulously researched, powerfully written, and provocatively argued.Author: Sean Turnell, author of Fiery Dragons: Banks, Moneylenders and Microfinance in Burma See all Product description
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If the author hasn't known it already, I would like to add some information on prices that so called activists or dissidents or human right groups charges for making one a former political prisoner in order to achieve an asylum status in sympathetic countries like USA and Norway. It have been a billion dollar business for many of those organisation operating in Thailand and Malaysia. It's a two income industry. Not only they charge the wannabe asylums, they also receive donations from the world's kindest countries and people.
As one method, a wannabe asylum pays a middle man in Burma 10000 US$ or more to go live in one of those camps for 1 to 2 years. After the refuge registration, the jumping in queue to be shipped out to countries like USA,UK,Norway,Germany and etc... will be arranged with further payments. That is quite popular because it's an almost guarantee method of obtaining immigration status like green card and citizenship in those high income countries. It also has other benefits of free education,free housing, child support and monthly allowance in addition to their cash in hand jobs.
At one stage of this process, they have to invent a political story for the immigration authority of these countries that they are indeed pitiful. But, to their convenience, a convincing story can be bought for as little as 3000 US$. A photo shoot with a popular Burmese exile who are known to these immigration offices can be arranged for as little as 500 US$ per photo. A photo goes further than thousand words. It serves as an evidence that one person is indeed in danger of being arrested,imprisoned and tortured by "Brutal Regime of Burma" since he/she is a close friend of that popular Burmese activist in exile despite the fact that they have never met or heard each other in their lives before that payments are made.
For such a lucrative business, it's not a surprise to see competition becomes fierce. The ghost writers have to become more and more creative in order to sell their stories. For example, being raped by several soldiers is not simply good enough anymore. It sounds better to be raped by entire battalion which has more than 500 soldiers in general. Some touche` like the rape happened when 7 months pregnant in front of a tied up husband who later was killed and whose flesh and liver was eaten by those " inhumane soldiers " also sell well.
Burma suffered from the world longest civil war after independence from British. Foreign invasion from Kuomintang Chinese, international sanctions and series mismanagement in Economy also didn't help. But it is not a country where everyone woke up with the thought to whom they would kill today or rape or ransack like the way Rambo and lots like this writer want you to believe. It's a highly cultured civilization of 60 millions people, a land of which is three times the size of United Kingdom. Go there and you will find it as one of the safest countries in the world. Their economy may be be smaller than yours but their hearts are certainly not.
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First of all, the authors never really succeed in pinning down Than Shwe's character. However, they contradict themselves several times. They often stress that Than Shwe had little formal education and quote interviewees who claim he is not intelligent, but then often describe him as politically cunning. Likewise, the authors claim Than Shwe used protests like the Saffron Revolution to lure enemies into the public, but then state that he was surprised by the protests and unable to control them. It's not clear what they really believe - except that they seem determined to believe the worst.
Again, I understand the difficulty in conducting research on such a politically sensitive topic. However, the authors do not cite any works by Burma scholars such as Robert Taylor and Kyaw Yin Hlaing, both of who have much greater access to the regime and have produced interesting alternative accounts of Burma's "palace politics." They do cite Aung Lynn Htut frequently, who is a high-profile defector and a somewhat suspicious source. The most reliable sources they use, ironically, are the government's own newspapers, at least for the basic facts about Than Shwe's life.
Even more vexing, much of the book doesn't even focus on Than Shwe, but rather wanders into various digressions. The beginning is basically a summary of modern Burmese history. In the middle, the authors discuss topics as unrelated and irrelevant as lobbyists in Washington, DC, who worked on behalf of the regime (20 pages) and allegations of chemical weapons attacks on ethnic minorities (10 pages). Neither of these are connected directly to Than Shwe and don't enlighten us about him as a political figure. By the time you skim over this excess material, there's actually very little biography left.
At the end of the day, this is not a biography of Than Shwe, so much as an attack on Than Shwe. Out of all the world's leaders, few deserve to be reviled as much as Than Shwe. Yet, a biography is no place to launch a human rights campaign (in this case, activists want Than Shwe tried for war crimes). The book isn't totally without value though. It does summarize much of what we know about Than Shwe's life, as well as a few rumors we can't confirm. I'd recommend reading only the first 150 pages or so and skipping the rest.
This book lacks in-depth cultural knowledge to provide concise analysis. He missed an opportunity to provide a true psychological profile.
Reading three links, I felt like author didn't do as good research as he could have.
Interesting tidbits on deaf-mute guide and planting to counter Suu Kyi's powers. To make interesting read, author should have met with deaf-mute guide of Than Shwe and asked her questions on Than Shwe and Burma's future.