OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGO #0060/01 0170925
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 170925Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5601
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0109
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 4434
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3693
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 7207
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4785
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 1014
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 1013
RUDKIA/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 0804
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3001
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0664 C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000060
STATE FOR EAP/MLS; PACOM FOR FPA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2017
SUBJECT: BURMA'S LEADER KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
REF: A. RANGOON 22
B. RANGOON 7
C. SINGAPORE 70
RANGOON 00000060 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: Poloff Dean Tidwell for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: Senior General Than Shwe returned to Burma on
January 12 from his hospital stay in Singapore. He appeared
briefly in the Burmese media on January 15 and 16, chairing
the quarterly SPDC meeting in Nay Pyi Taw and welcoming PM
Soe Win back from the ASEAN Summit in Cebu. Although rumors
of his death were premature, rumors abound in Burma that he
faces life-threatening health problems. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) After missing Burmese Independence Day to make an
unannounced trip to Singapore on December 31 (ref B) for what
the Burmese Embassy in Singapore described as a "routine
medical check up," Senior General Than Shwe returned to Burma
on January 12. He traveled back to Burma via the chartered
plane used to transport Prime Minister Soe Win to see him in
Singapore en route to the ASEAN meeting and East Asian Summit
in the Philippines.
3. (C) The SPDC held its regular quarterly meeting, postponed
from January 8, on January 15 in Nay Pyi Taw. Regime-run
television briefly showed Than Shwe chairing the meeting on
its January 15 evening news, although it is highly unusual
for the regime to publicize or televise its quarterly SPDC
meetings while in session. The SPDC officials seen on
television appeared unusually tense. The January 16 evening
news also featured Than Shwe, welcoming Soe Win back from the
ASEAN meeting. The extra media coverage may be designed to
dispel rumors that Than Shwe had died or was seriously
incapacitated and to convince military rank-and-file that he
was still fit to lead. Embassy sources also reported rumors
that Than Shwe would not participate in the quarterly
meetings until their conclusion, but instead would go to a
beach resort this week to recuperate.
4. (C) Multiple Embassy sources report increased security
around the country during Than Shwe's absence abroad. Local
media sources observed that, during Than Shwe's absence, the
regime mouthpiece daily, "The New Light of Myanmar," carried
fewer reports than usual about SPDC and cabinet members'
travels around the country as key leaders kept a low profile.
Embassy personnel also observed increased police checkpoints
around Rangoon at night.
5. (C) The Rangoon-based correspondent for AFP (PROTECT) told
us that Than Shwe's health remains precarious due to
congestive heart failure, and reported that his doctors urged
him to remain in Singapore to rest. Than Shwe was, she said,
afraid to be away too long, lest his rivals seize the
opportunity to oust him. She corroborated earlier
information (ref B) that Than Shwe knows his health is
failing and wants Vice Senior General Maung Aye to retire
together with him, but that Maung Aye will not agree. Than
Shwe reportedly fears Maung Aye would purge the military of
Than Shwe's cronies and place Than Shwe and family under
house arrest, as Than Shwe did to former dictator Ne Win's
family. The AFP correspondent believes if Than Shwe does not
retire at this current SPDC meeting, he may be kept on as
titular head of state but would no longer play an active role
in day-to-day affairs.
6. (C) Emboff heard a separate rumor from Dr. Thaung Han
(PROTECT), a Rangoon-based doctor turned businessman. He
claimed that doctors in Singapore discovered that Than Shwe
was riddled with abdominal cancer and was beyond effective
7. (C) COMMENT: It is clear that a serious health problem
prompted Than Shwe's unexpected hospital visit, but no one
RANGOON 00000060 002.2 OF 002
can confirm whether he suffers from "nothing serious,"
congestive heart failure, a stroke, or advanced cancer.
Everyone will be watching his appearances more closely to
gauge the state of his health in the expectation that a
change of rulers approaches. END COMMENT.
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