Former Myanmar strongman Than Shwe hospitalized

BANGKOK (AP) — The former longtime military ruler of Myanmar, Than Shwe, has been hospitalized with an unspecified illness, an official said Wednesday.

An employee of the Thaik Chaung military hospital in the capital of Naypyitaw, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of possible reprisals, confirmed that Than Shwe, 88, was being treated under tight security at a VIP section of the facility.

Myanmar has been struggling with one of the worst COVID-19 surges in Southeast Asia, and reports have swirled in recent days that the reclusive retired leader may have become infected along with his wife.

The hospital source could not confirm Than Shwe’s illness or whether his wife was also hospitalized.

Than Shwe ruled from 1992 until 2011, when he handed power to a nominally civilian, pro-military government.

During his rule, he led a feared junta that brutally crushed dissent and routinely jailed political opponents.

By the time he stepped down, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the charismatic face of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, had spent 15 of the previous 21 years in prison or under house arrest.

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