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05RANGOON105 2005-01-25 08:59:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rangoon
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1. (C) Summary: The mysterious death on January 21 of SPDC
Vice Chairman Maung Aye's personal assistant sparked rumors
of a senior regime power struggle, but as of COB January 25
the SPDC is carrying on with business as usual and nothing
appears to be amiss in Rangoon. Sources are inconsistent on
the cause of the aide's death, but suicide is a strong
possibility. SPDC plans to fill a junta vacancy (that has
existed since PM Khin Nyunt's October ouster) could have
sparked the recent spate of rumors. Such a move could
precipitate a larger shuffle, but the GOB has yet to make any
official announcement. End Summary.

2. (U) Little is known about the circumstances surrounding
the mysterious death on January 21 of Lt Colonel Bo Win Tun,
the 42 year-old personal assistant of SPDC Vice Chairman
Maung Aye. According to obituaries published in the regime's
official newspaper on January 23, Bo Win Tun passed away at
11:00 p.m. "while on duty." An Emboff observed the military
funeral for the deceased officer, which took place on January

23. Several dozen SPDC and GOB cabinet members attended,
including Maung Aye.

3. (C) According to credible Embassy sources, Bo Win Tun died
in his office, located at the Ministry of Defense main
compound in northern Rangoon. The compound houses offices
for Maung Aye and SPDC Chairman Than Shwe, and was the venue
for a quarterly meeting of the 12-member junta that
apparently concluded on the afternoon of January 21 (a 13th
slot in the SPDC has been vacate since the October 2004
ouster of former PM Khin Nyunt).

4. (C) Sources are less certain, and less consistent, about
the cause of death. Well-connected military sources revealed
to Emboffs that Bo Win Tun committed suicide (with a sidearm)
following a harsh reprimand earlier in the day from Maung Aye
for carrying on an extramarital affair. A number of
opposition and local contacts speculate that Bo Win Tun was
the victim of a botched assassination attempt against Maung
Aye, but sheepishly admit that their information is coming
from rumors broadcast by the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of
Burma (DVB).

5. (SBU) Several exile media outlets also reported rumors
that, following the mysterious death, Senior General Than
Shwe had arrested Maung Aye and PM Soe Thin. However, on
January 25 Embassy sources observed top SPDC leaders carrying
out their regular schedules and there were no signs of
unusual activity in Rangoon. Rumors have been consistent in
recent weeks that the SPDC plans to fill the vacant S-2
position, which could precipitate a shuffle of regional
military commanders and other members of the regime. Rumors
of a shuffle are plausible, but the GOB has made no official