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Burma (Myanmar)'s dictatorial ruler: Hakka Ne Win
Ne Win, U,
also called SHU MAUNG (b. May 24, 1911, Paungdale, Burma [Myanmar]),
Burmese general who was the leader of Burma (Myanmar) from 1962 to 1988.
Ne Win studied at University College, Rangoon (Yangtn), from 1929 to 1931,
and in the mid-1930s he became involved in the struggle for Burmese
independence from the British. During World War II, after the Japanese
invasion of Burma, he was one of the Thirty Comrades who, in 1941, went to
Hainan to receive military training from the Japanese. Ne Win was an
officer in the Japanese-sponsored Burma National Army from 1943 to 1945,
but, becoming disillusioned with the Japanese, he helped organize the
underground resistance. After Burma gained independence from Britain on
Jan. 4, 1948, he served as the second commander in chief of the army.
In 1958 Ne Win was asked to serve as prime minister in a caretaker
government after former prime minister U Nu's administration had proved
incapable of suppressing the ethnic insurgencies that were crippling the
country. Ne Win held general elections in 1960, stepping down that same
year after U Nu's reelection and the restoration of parliamentary
government. However, on March 2, 1962, Ne Win carried out a coup d'itat,
imprisoning U Nu and establishing the Revolutionary Council of the Union of
Burma, whose members were drawn almost exclusively from the armed forces.
In his subsequent rule, Ne Win combined a military dictatorship with a
socialist economic program, the cornerstone of which was the
nationalization of Burma's major economic enterprises. His government broke
Indian, Chinese, and Pakistani traders' control over the country's economy,
and it embarked on an ambitious though unsuccessful program of rapid
industrialization. Ne Win steered a neutralist course in foreign policy and
isolated Burma from contacts with the outside world. His regime made Burma
into a one-party state in 1964; the sole party permitted to exist was the
Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP), which had been founded by Ne Win
and which was dominated by military officers. Ne Win and his colleagues
formulated a new constitution in 1972-73 that provided for a one-party
state in Burma. A new government was elected in 1974 with Ne Win as
president (1974-81). He subsequently retained the post of chairman of the
BSPP, remaining the country's preeminent leader.
By the late 1980s, Ne Win's socialist and isolationist policies had turned
Burma into one of the world's poorest countries. Governmental corruption
and mismanagement had driven a great deal of the country's economic
activity underground into the black market, and Burma, which had once been
a leading rice exporter, was beginning to experience food shortages. In
late 1987 widespread antigovernment rioting broke out in the major cities,
prompting Ne Win in July 1988 to resign from the chairmanship of the BSPP.
The BSPP was replaced by the State Law and Order Restoration Council, which
was also headed by military officers. Ne Win, however, remained active
behind the scenes.