Than ShweAFP

Myanmar’s aging junta leader Senior General Than Shwe has headed to Singapore for medical treatment, according to airport sources.

Than Shwe, 73, left Yangon airport on a private flight for Singapore at about 10:30 am (0400 GMT), accompanied by his wife Kyaing Kyaing, said an airport source who asked not to be named.

Officials rarely speak on the record in military-ruled Myanmar, for fear of repercussions by the junta, which runs the isolated Southeast Asian nation with an iron fist.

Another airport source said earlier this week that both Than Shwe and Kyaing Kyaing would receive medical check-ups in the island state. The couple would be accompanied by two daughters, the source said.

It was not clear when Than Shwe would return home.

The secretive leader has ruled Myanmar since 1992, but Thailand-based analysts have said his health is weakening and he is considering handing more power to his trusted protege, Shwe Mann.

Shwe Mann, the military’s joint chief of staff, has long been seen as the likely successor to Than Shwe.

However, the senior general remains firmly entrenched as head of state, and virtually every major decision must bear his seal of approval.

Myanmar’s military regime is currently facing mounting international pressure over human rights abuses, the ongoing house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and its slow progress on democratic reforms.