OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGO #0337/01 1291052
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 081052Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7521
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1147
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4694
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8235
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5797
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 1565
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1554
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000337
DEPT FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, AND IO
PACOM FOR FPA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2018
SUBJECT: BURMA: THAN SHWE IS THE PROBLEM
REF: RANGOON 333
RANGOON 00000337 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: P/E Chief Leslie Hayden for Reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)
1. (C) Summary: A businessman and a journalist with close
ties to the regime told Emboffs that all roads lead to Senior
General Than Shwe, who remains isolated and unaware of the
scale of the catastrophe that has befallen his country. No
one will approve visas for international humanitarian
assistance workers without his direct approval. The military
and bureaucracy remain paralyzed with fear. Meanwhile, in
the absence of resources and capacity to address the growing
humanitarian disaster, GOB ministers have ordered regime
cronies to provide commodities and money for the assistance
effort. The cronies are quickly draining their savings and
assets, so they have put pressure on Rangoon "viceroy" Myint
Swe to allow international assistance and humanitarian
workers into Burma. End Summary.
2. (C) After a May 7 Buddhist donation ceremony attended by
LT GEN Myint Swe (Chief of Bureau of Special Operations 5,
Rangoon Division) and several regime cronies, the businessmen
launched a verbal assault on the general, demanding that
international aid workers be allowed into the country. The
cronies complained that, in absence of international
assistance, they had to provide commodities and money for the
relief effort on a scale that was quickly draining their
assets. Tay Myint, Chairman of the Myanmar Fisheries
Federation, has already been forced to donate USD 1.5
million. As a reward for his generosity, he and crony Chit
Kaing were awarded licenses to import 600,000 sheets of
corrugated iron to sell for roof repairs.
3. (C) Despite the cronies' pleading with Myint Swe, no
high-level government officials have dared to frankly
describe the full scope of the disaster to the Senior
General, our sources told us. Unpleasant pictures in the
media reportedly make the Senior General retreat even further
into isolation. According to our contacts, Than Shwe is
above all concerned with saving face and holding on to power.
He does not want the Burma Army to be seen as needing
assistance to deliver relief, and would rather let thousands
of Burmese die than accept massive international assistance.
Only donations of commodities have been approved so far. Our
contacts emphasized that Than Shwe remained worried about a
U.S. invasion and determined to hold on to power for the last
few years of his life.
4. (C) Businessman and aquaculture expert Tin Maung Thann
told us he had been contacted this morning by upset officials
at the Thai and Singapore Embassies, who informed him the
military had refused their governments' offer to provide
medical relief and helicopter operations in the Delta. Thai
telecommunications company AIS reportedly offered to set up
emergency cell phone communications in the Delta to assist
the relief efforts and was turned down because the lead
engineer was a Japanese national.
5. (C) The senior generals will not even allow a full Burma
Army response, according to our sources. LT GEN Myint Swe
reportedly had a four-division strong rescue team ready to
deploy to the Delta, but third-ranking General Thura Shwe
Mann ordered him to stand down after a hastily called meeting
in Nay Pyi Taw with Than Shwe and Maung Aye. Meanwhile, PM
Thein Sein and the eight ministers on the national rescue
committee reportedly have become more desperate. Sources
told us Thein Sein expressed fear to Thura Shwe Mann that
60,000 had lost their lives already and up to 300,000 could,
if water, food, and medicine were not delivered quickly.
6. (C) Our businessman and journalist contacts pleaded with
the U.S. to request the Chinese to send a high-level emissary
to speak to Than Shwe regarding the gravity of the situation,
and to urge him to let in international humanitarian experts.
Our contacts doubted that Ban Ki Moon's message to Than
Shwe had even been delivered to him (reftel), as no one dared
push up any bad news to the Senior General. Only the Chinese
know how to make sure their messages are delivered, they
RANGOON 00000337 002.2 OF 002
explained. The Chinese send their messages in writing and
insist on reading them in Burmese only to the Senior General
himself. It is the only way to make sure a message is truly
delivered to Than Shwe, they stressed.
7. (C) Comment: Than Shwe's isolation and paranoia know no
bounds. All fingers point to him as the obstacle to
delivering the humanitarian assistance the Burmese so
desperately need, just like he is the obstacle to an
inclusive political dialogue. Our many contacts are visibly
distraught as they watch Burma's humanitarian catastrophe
worsen by the day because of the intransigence of Than Shwe.
The question is who is brave enough to shunt Than Shwe aside?
Most Burmese tell us no one. Other senior officials may
passively sit while thousands needlessly die rather than
challenge Than Shwe. End comment.
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