chapter  8
Ne Win’s Club
Pages 6

Perhaps it is an exaggeration to compare Ne Win with Orwell’s protagonist, U Po Kyin, the Burman opportunist in Burmese Days, who spared no means in achieving his goals. And yet Ne Win is said to express both the ruthlessness and ambivalence encapsulated in this character, who was refused membership in the white Thakins’ club. He takes such a delight in hating the club and not having access to it that he must form one for himself and his people. Burma’s dilemma is perhaps that Ne Win persuaded many to join this ‘club’, whether they were members of the party or not. Since then it has been impossible to leave the club without being called a traitor to the country and a non-Burman. Peasants and the kin of soldiers have probably been the strongest supporters. Officers have acquired positions in all sectors of trade and bureaucracy. At least ten million have been members of the different organisations of the party and surely not all of these could have been forced into this, but studies of social life are lacking which could illuminate the nature of the regime’s support.1