| Ne Win
Yangon, Dec. 5 (Reuters): Former Myanmar military dictator Ne Win, who ruled the reclusive Southeast Asian state for more than 25 years during its slide into poverty and economic ruin, died today under house arrest, family members and witnesses said.
Ne Win, 91, relinquished formal power in 1988, and was believed to hold considerable sway over the current military junta until he fell from grace this year after several close relatives were sentenced to death for an alleged coup plot.
He died at 7.30 am (0100 GMT) at his lakeside home in Yangon, where he had been confined with one of his daughters since March, and his body was cremated within hours. A white minivan carrying the body emerged from the compound at around midday followed by nine other vehicles and headed to Ye Way cemetery about 15 miles north of Yangon.
Several dozen people including family members gathered at the cemetery as monks carried out Buddhist rites. No senior members of the military government were present.
ďIf he had died before the coup plot was exposed, he would have been buried somewhere much more illustrious and with more ceremony,Ē one former government official said. Ne Win would have been entitled to a full state funeral, he said.
The government has refused comment on Ne Winís death and diplomats said the ruling generals were eager to keep his passing as low key as possible.
Ne Win suffered the sudden and savage fall from grace after a court in September sentenced his son-in-law and three grandsons to death for plotting to overthrow the government with the aid of renegade officers and black magic.
Although Ne Win was not implicated in the plot, he was held in de facto house arrest, forbidden from leaving his home and shunned by the junta he created.
Many observers say it is unlikely a coup was being planned but that the junta had grown concerned by the business empire Ne Winís family had been building. A spokesman for Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said Ne Winís death was unlikely to affect the countryís politics.