Than Shwe, the brutal dictator of the southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, dramatically increased his already horrific rate of murdering citizens this week in a late, desperate attempt to become Time magazine's 2006 Man Of The Year, who will be honored in the Dec. 25 issue.
Although Than Shwe is considered a sadistic and merciless tyrant within the borders of Myanmar—also known as Burma—his human-rights abuses have long been ignored in the international media. After he failed to make The Economist's list of Top 25 Worst Leaders, Than Shwe introduced a program of "random liquidation," doubled the number of rape and torture camps, and instructed aides to inundate news outlets with press releases in which he is referred to as "The Ripper Of Rangoon." Likewise, he recently added four ethnic groups to his list of subhuman residents, ordered his special police to drag thousands of opposition-party members from their beds between the hours of 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. to be machine-gunned, and has forced thousands of women and children to work on constructing a national welcome center before being beheaded and dumped in a ditch behind the new facility.
This is, sadly, a parody whose time has come and gone. The Man of the Year decision long ago switched from "legitimate portrait of biggest newsmaker" to "feel-good crap," with the 2001 selection of Rudy Giuliani over Osama bin Laden as the key example of the trend. (I'd argue 2003′ selection of "The American Soldier" over Saddam Hussein was almost as lame, even if it did produce a great piece of journalism in the follow-up.)