Monday, Apr. 04, 2011

Than Shwe

Age: 78
Occupation: Burma's military ruler
Previous TIME 100 appearances: 0

As Chairman of Burma's Orwellian-named State Peace and Development Council, Than Shwe is effectively the military strongman at the helm of his beguiling pariah state. He presides over one of the most repressive and dictatorial regimes in the world — and gets away with it. Despite years of being alienated from the bulk of the international community, resource-rich Burma is prized by emerging global powers India and China — and Than Shwe's government has succeeded in winning political support and lucrative investment from both of the Asian giants. At the same time, his junta has succeeded in its project to institute democracy in the country on its own terms — staging elections that led to military-backed political parties dominating the country's new assembly. Than Shwe is living proof that in an age of democracy and globalization, authoritarianism and draconian rule can still pay handsomely.