Former Myanmar strongman Than Shwe suffering from COVID-19

BANGKOK (AP) — The former longtime military ruler of Myanmar, Than Shwe, has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is expected to remain hospitalized for two weeks, an official said Thursday.

Than Shwe, 88, was admitted along with his wife to the Thaik Chaung military hospital in the capital, Naypyitaw, about three or four days ago after they both tested positive for the coronavirus, a hospital employee said.

The two are being treated in a VIP section of the hospital under tight security, the employee said on condition of anonymity for fear of possible reprisals.

The hospital source did not have information on the severity of their illnesses.

Myanmar has been struggling with one of the worst COVID-19 surges in Southeast Asia, and the military leadership that seized control of the country in February from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government has been accused of making it worse by diverting critical medical supplies to itself and its supporters.

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, including Suu Kyi, the charismatic face of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement.

He controlled a 400,000-strong military that turned its guns on myriad ethnic rebellions as well as on university students and Buddhist monks who launched an uprising in 2007.

By the time Than Shwe stepped down, Suu Kyi had spent 15 of the previous 21 years in prison or under house arrest.

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