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Cablegate: Regime Feeds On Its Own

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: On September 26, the regime sentenced
ex-dictator General Ne Win's son-in-law and three grandsons
to death by hanging for attempted treason. The son-in-law,
one of the grandsons, and some business associates were also
sentenced to varying lengths of hard labor for economic
crimes. The verdicts culminate highly publicized trials that
began in early May. A lack of hard evidence did not appear
to hinder the court, and most believe the attack on the Ne
Win family was orchestrated to quash any doubts about Senior
General Than Shwe's ultimate authority in Burma. Most
observers believe the Senior General will now step in to
commute the death sentences, balancing his display of
strength with one of compassion. However, there is the
possibility that the four will indeed be hanged. The general
public views the whole affair as a power play between the
elite, with little or no bearing on their daily lives. End

Guilty On All Counts...

2. (SBU) The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)
handed down death sentences for high treason to the
son-in-law and three grandsons of ex-strongman General Ne Win
in a hearing on September 26. Culminating trials that began
in early May (reftel), the hearing, which was open to family
members, journalists, and diplomats, lasted from early
morning into the evening as the judges summarized evidence
that the four men had conspired to overthrow the government
and illegally imported cars and cellular telephones. The
first phase of the hearing summarized evidence of economic
crimes by grandson Kyaw Ne Win, a locally renowned gang
leader and thug, son-in-law Aye Zaw Win, and a handful of
their local business partners. For these crimes, Kyaw Ne Win
received 49 years of hard labor, while the others received
lesser sentences of hard labor.

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3. (SBU) The second phase of the trial listed evidence of
high treason against the grandsons and son-in-law, focusing
primarily on the testimony of a military officer, a letter
from the son-in-law to the court appealing for mercy (which
was interpreted as an admission of guilt), and items seized
from the houses and businesses of the four such as radios,
flashlights, and guard uniforms. Although the evidence
appeared weak, the judge sentenced the four to death by
hanging for attempting to seize State power and life
imprisonment for enticing the military to betray the State.
(Note: We have been told that, bizarrely, in verdicts
entailing death and life imprisonment, the hangman's rope is
removed from the corpse and kept in prison to serve the life
sentence after the execution. End Note.)

4. (SBU) Although family members in attendance cried as the
verdicts were announced the four defendants appeared resigned
to their fate. When told they had seven days to file an
appeal, the father brusquely stated, "if the State wants to
kill us, we will not fight it," and the boys nodded their
agreement. It is up to the Supreme Court to set the date and
time of the executions. The wife and mother of the
defendants, Ne Win's formerly powerful daughter Sanda Win, is
reportedly still under house arrest with the ex-strongman at
the family's lakeside compound. We have no information yet
on how she or Ne Win reacted to the verdicts.

5. (SBU) Comment: The verdicts have generated only mild
public interest in Burma. While there is no love lost for
the Ne Win clan, most average Burmese see the trial and
verdicts as the end of a struggle among the elite, which will
have little or no effect on their lives. With economic
conditions continuing to spiral downward and prices
skyrocketing, most citizens are focusing on their next meal
rather than the travails of the power elite. Among our
contacts, most do not believe the regime will carry out the
death sentences. The arrest and trial of the family members
have already demonstrated the regime's power and its
intolerance of dissent, even among those previously
considered "untouchables." In this view, the Senior General
could now demonstrate his compassion by commuting the death
sentences and leaving the four to serve life sentences. A
minority view is that with the publicity attached to the
public trial and verdicts, the Senior General must let the
sentences stand to demonstrate that the military is resolute
in its undertakings. End Comment.

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