BANGKOK, Sept 19, Reuter: Sunday’s army coup in Burma tasks the fact that veteran leader Ne Win, who resigned as chairman of the ruling party after street protests in July, is effectively still in power diplomats said.

This is just Ne Win reshuffling the pack, He still controls things.” A Western Ambassador said shortly after Defence Minister and Army Chief General Saw Maung, announced he was taking power for “the interests of the people.” _ Asked if he thought the coup ‘was instigated by Ne Win, one Senior diplomat said bluntly: “Everything else is.”

General Saw Maung said an earlier Government promise of multiparty elections would be fulfilled as soon as peace and order was restored throughout the country, virtually paralysed by months of mass demonstrations and strikes,

Diplomats in Bangkok and Rangoon said the military takeover ‘was an attempt by Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party to prevent the establishment of an interim government to supervise the elections.

Before the coup, many diplomats thought it unlikely soldiers would again obey orders to suppress opposition. Reports of troops shooting scores of demonstrators on Monday indicate they were wrong.

Ne Win, whose name means, “Brilliant Sun,” seized power in 1962.

A year later he formed the BSPP and set Burma on the path to socialism. In the process he created a xenophobic country which became one of the poorest in the world.

He kept the officer corps loyal over the years by ensuring they received Government and party largesse. Many of the best jobs in Government were reserved for Senior Army Officers.

Ne Win resigned as Burma’s President in November 1981, citing old age and “creeping debility” but continued to head the BSPP, the real seat of power.

After the massive demonstrations in March and June, Ne Win, 77, also quit as BSPP Chairman in July. Top Government leaders also stepped down but it was no surprise when Ne Win’s right hand man, Sein Lein took over leadership of party and state on July 26.

Article extracted from this publication >> September 23, 1988