A video being circulated on the internet of detained former prime minster Khin Nyunt being taken by police from his house-cum-prison has triggered speculation of a post-election turn of events in Burma.
The shaky 16-minute clip was first uploaded to Facebook on 26 November and immediately grabbed the attention of Burma observers. Khin Nyunt had risen up the politico-military ranks and also held the position of Burma’s top intelligence officer until he was ousted in 2004 by Than Shwe in a power struggle and placed under house arrest. Little has been seen of him since.
The video begins with Burma’s top police chief, Khin Yi, arriving at the door of Khin Nyunt’s house in Rangoon. Khin Nyunt opens, and leads the delegation inside, where they sit around and table talk briefly. The video has no audio or a date, so the intentions of the meeting remain unknown.
The police chief then takes Khin Nyunt to another property, the identity of which is also unknown. Htay Aung, a Burma researcher at the Network for Democracy and Development (NDD), told DVB that it may be a government-owned Defence Services guesthouse.
Opinion is split on the meaning of the video, which emerged three weeks after the elections and two weeks after the release of opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi. Some speculate that Khin Nyunt, who was the key interlocutor between the regime and Suu Kyi after he became intelligence chief in the mid-1980s, was being drafted back to restart negotiations with the Nobel laureate.
Htay Aung said however that it maybe related to unrest in the ranks of Burma’s powerful military.
“There may be wider dissatisfaction within the military by factions which favour Gen Khin Nyunt and they may be making demands or are even plotting to stage a coup,” he said. “That is why the other side is taking Gen Khin Nyunt away and placing him under custody in a more secure place.”
He said it could also be the first stage of an attempt by the junta to reignite dialogue with Burma’s armed ethnic groups, something that only Khin Nyunt had to date made any strides in. The once-powerful 71-year-old, now grey-haired and frail, was a comparatively moderate voice among Burma’s hardline military rulers, and secured ceasefires with the majority of rebel armies.
Those are now tenuous, however, as the Burmese government continues to push through its plans to convert 17 groups into junta-backed border militias.
“When Gen Khin Nyunt was around, he could build trust with the ethnic nationalities or persuade them to go along with his dragged-out plan,” said Htay Aung. “Today, it seems that the military is about to resume war with the ethnic nationalities again. Some factions may, therefore, be longing for Gen Khin Nyunt.”
The fall of the former prime minister was accompanied by the purge of many officials loyal to him. He was removed from office in October 2004, following a government announcement that he had been permitted to “retire for health reasons”. Several days later, however, corruptions allegations were launched, and he was given a 44-year sentence.