In Rangoon, ruminating on Ne Win’s death
December 8 , 1994
The active Rangoon rumour mill went into overdrive recently when former Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the State Law and Order Restoration Council ( Slorc ) , to his residence.
The reason for the meeting, according to talk on the street, was the death of Dr Maung Maung who suffered a fatal heart attack in july. Maung Maung, 69, a Western-educated intellectual, ruled for one month amid the political turmoil of 1988.He was the only civilian president since Ne Win took power in 1962.
Ne Win was said to be disturbed that Maung Maung was only given an ardinary funeral.
“ He was upset and angry because he wanted a sysye funeral for Maung Maung and his body to be entombed,” claimed one Rangoon resident, passing on information said to have come from sources to Ne Win.
One of his sources quoted Ne Win as saying, “ You cannot even make a stste funeral for Burma’s last president.”
Khin Nyunt apparently could not offer a satisfactory explanation and left Ne Win’s ststely house.
Indeed, Ne Win who is believed to be ailing might be worried for his future funeral. Will Slorc entomb him or simply cremate his body?
In 1974, when forer UN General Secretary U Thant’s body was brought to Ranoon by family members, Ne Win’s regime refused to honour it. Ne Win is known to hold a jealous and hatreds of U Thant. As a result, students and monks forcibly took the body of U Thant and placed it in a mausoleum they had built themselves.Later, soldiers stormed the Rangoon University compound and took the body back. Many students were killed and jailed.
But unlike U Thant, there is little popular support for Nw Win and the fate of his body is uncertain. Who will sponsor his funeral? Who will mourn for his death apart from his family? Will Slorc build a beautiful mausoleum for Ne Win? Will students and monks take Ne Win’s body and make their own mausoleum and honour it? Rangoon residents asked even if they (Slorc) entomb Ne Win, who will go to visit or salute Ne Win’s cemetery?
A Rangoon University lecturer predicted that unlike Gen Aung San, the father of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Slorc will do little for Ne Win. “Even if they want to or if Ne Win wanted, they will have to build a cemetery at his home. So no one will go to destroy it,” he said.
Ne Win, his orginal name was Shu Maungborn, was born in 1911. He was a post office clerk in Rangoon and member of the nationalist Dohbama Asiayone(We Burman Association) in the 1930s. Ne Win seized power in 1962 and officially retired in july 1988. Nevertheless, most Burmese people and foreign observers believe that he still pulls the strings.
But at 83, however, Ne Win can no longer run the country’s day-to-day affairs.
During his 26 years of rule, Burma became one of the poorest countries in the world and Ne Win, one of the richest men in Asia. In 1987, when Burma was accorded Least Developed country (LDC) status, Ne Win was living a life of luxury, taking yearly trips to an exclusive Swiss health resort, the Clinique Le’mana-Rus-tica, prmpting some to liken him to filipino dictator ferdinand Marcos.
Speculating on Ne Win’s death is a popular past time for the long-suffering population of Burma.
“ I think he will feel quilty before he dies,but I don’t think he will apologise to us,” said one resident, Htun Htun Aung.
“If he did something constructive, productive and meaningful and thank him.if he did,” said Htun.
Htun said present leaders who had grown up under Ne Win may take a lesson from their godfather.
“ If Ne Win did good things for country, he would not have to worry for his future funeral.We ourselves will entomb him and build a colourful mausoleom.”