As monk-led protesters made clear in 2007 and unnamed terrorists reiterated yesterday, people in Burma are incredibly pissed at their government. Given the recent events and my obsession—I mean, expertise—regarding it, it’s only appropriate that my inaugural public-service announcement on bad guys you should know concerns that country’s dictator, Than Shwe.
First and foremost: While it’s true that every story about bloody oppression has villains, this guy ranks with the evilest of them all. To wit, here’s a video of Ellen Page drawing a Hitler mustache on him:
Or, if you prefer your information come from a half-naked bisexual stripper, you can ask Tila Tequila.
Anyway: This high-school dropout was a buddy of the now-dead leader of the 1962 coup that put Burma under military dictatorship, now the world’s longest running. Than Shwe served a stint as a postal clerk before he worked his way up to chairman of the government and commander in chief of the army, as which he currently lords violently over the citizenry. Although he personally is not as well known as his fellow World’s Worst Dictators Mugabe and Kim Jong-Il, this would be the guy whose tyranny made headlines for killing some of the aforementioned 2007 protesters, turning away US aid ships after a cyclone killed 140,000 people in 2008, and lengthening the sentence of the world’s only incarcerated Nobel laureate last year. But not in the headlines, and even more horrifying, is the completely unchecked campaign of genocide against members of the Karen ethnicity, in which five-year-olds are raped and villagers are routinely decapitated. And those on the right side of the ethnic divide just die a little more slowly, what with crushing poverty, virtually no health care system, a child malnutrition rate of 30 percent, and surreal levels of Big Brothery restrictions on thought and expression.
Factoid that might impress your friends: The country with the most child soldiers is not in Africa. It’s Than Shwe’s Burma. Remember the “God’s Army” twins?
How (Not) to Beat Him: Obama has been engaging Burma more than did previous administrations, mixing in diplomacy with the usual old sanctions to get Than Shwe to relax his military’s death grip on the place. Than Shwe decidedly will not do that, because he’s convinced that maintaining massive military force is key to Burma’s continued independence (that’s partly our and England’s bad), and because he couldn’t care less what the US thinks, so long as the rest of the world keeps making him and his cronies rich by buying Burma’s gas and rubies and other fabulous resources.
Horoscope: This aquarius might not have much longer to live, having been born in February of the early ’20s, but look for him to live out his days at least with impunity, if not continue to prominently run the show, even after the Burmese election later this year since he has, as previously explained here, engineered it to be a total crock of shit.