Burma's reclusive, ailing dictator resigns, may become president

     Burma's reclusive and ailing dictator, Than Shwe, has resigned from his military post, exiled Burmese media have reported, paving the way for him to become Burma's president after this year's general elections. Shwe, the despot who has brutally ruled Southeast Asia's poorest country as commander-in-chief of the armed forces since 1992, yesterday handed control of the army to his adjutant general. However, according to The Telegraph, the 77-year-old will remain head of the Burmese government. More than a dozen other senior military officers also resigned, in an ominous sign for the country's forthcoming elections. Inside Burma, Shwe's resignation of his military role is being seen as a significant step towards ensuring he and his military cadres remain in charge after the November 7 elections, the first to be held in Burma for two decades. "I think this means only one thing - he wants to be president," a source inside Burma told The Guardian. The country's new constitution says a civilian can only hold the presidency, but it does insist the president and vice-president "shall be well acquainted with the affairs of the Union, such as ... the military". It is the second major reshuffle since April, when 27 senior military figures, including the prime minister, Thein Sein, resigned to lead the USDP. The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won Burma's last elections, in 1990, overwhelmingly. But the junta refused to recognise the result and Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the past two decades in detention.

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