YANGON, Myanmar — The former head of military intelligence, once feared and loathed for the torture his agents inflicted, now runs an art gallery. Myanmar’s former dictator, U Than Shwe, is reportedly enjoying a peaceful retirement in a secluded compound, while family members who grew rich during his military rule live luxurious lifestyles that contrast with the crippling poverty that afflicts most of the country. And a former top general in what was one of the world’s most repressive governments, U Thein Sein, as president, is hailed both inside the country and abroad as a great reformer. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. To the outside world, Myanmar’s transition from military rule to fledgling democracy can appear jarringly forgiving.
Even those who suffered torture and years of solitary confinement as political prisoners say there is no point calling for retribution. They cite the role of Buddhism, a certain pragmatism and, in some cases, political calculations for their restraint.
The old elite — the generals and the businessmen who were close to them — are reinventing themselves.
The most stark example may be U Khin Nyunt, the former spymaster, who opened his art gallery and cafe last month in the compound of his yellow-ocher mansion in Yangon that during the junta’s rule was off limits to all but those with top military clearance. Khin Nyunt spends his mornings in prayer surrounded by Buddhist statues and his afternoons tending to an orchid garden. “I don’t want to analyze or look back on the actions of the past,” Khin Nyunt said in an interview. “Look at how peaceful my life is now, very peaceful.” more…