January 27th, 2011

MYANMAR/BURMA — From the land of doublethink comes Disciplined Democracy.

From The Irrawaddy:

Burma’s Ali Baba and his Family

It is said that Than Shwe believes himself to be a reincarnation of an ancient Burmese monarch. Whether this rumor is true or not, the junta chief has certainly styled himself in that way, for example by having his wife, children and his favorite grandchild take the most important seats at official ceremonies.

In keeping with this status, Than Shwe and his family have amassed enormous wealth. In part he has done this by treating Burma’s revenues from the sale of oil and natural gas as his own personal fortune. By recording these revenues at the official exchange rate (six kyat to the US dollar, in contrast to the real rate of 815 kyat to the dollar), he and his closest loyalists have been able to keep most of the money earned from the sale of Burma’s resources for themselves.

Most of this money has ended up in overseas bank accounts. Than Shwe has even assigned former Lt-Gen Tin Aye, one of his closest military loyalists, to manage these bank accounts. He has also reportedly bought several houses in Beijing and Shanghai with these secret funds.

But the Than Shwe clan’s pilfering of wealth is not limited to stealing from the country. Sources in the Ministry of Defense said that when Than Shwe’s wife, Kyaing Kyaing, and daughters make trips to other parts of the country unaccompanied by the senior general, the wives of regional military commanders have to present them with “diamonds, gold and valuable jewelery” on a tray.

“They take what they like most from the trays and leave the rest. But they never walk away without taking at least 200,000,000 kyat (US$ 245,000) worth of the precious stones and other items,” said a source.

Gawd forbid there should be pushing and shoving in line.

Do what you can to make this a good morning, Myanmar.

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