Burmese military undergoes major reshuffle

Jun 23, 2008 (DVB), Five lieutenant generals working as commanders in the Special Operations Bureau have been dismissed as part of a reshuffle within the ranks of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council.

Those dismissed were among the commanders in charge of the War Office, and included Ye Myint, the father of Aung Zaw Ye Myint who was recently arrested for drug dealing, along with Kyaw Win, Aung Htwe, Maung Bo and Khin Maung Than.

The state media has not reported the dismissals but has focused its coverage on the appointment of the naval commander-in-chief to a ministerial post.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a military analyst based on the China-Burma border, said it was usual for information on reshuffles military not to be announced.

"Ministerial appointments are officially announced to the public but changes in the military are only set out in internal memos distributed within the military," Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

"You learn of [military reshuffles] if you read the circular or see ministerial postings announced in the newspapers, or when the papers carry news about commanders visiting particular locations."

Aung Kyaw Zaw said the changes this time involved about seven regional commanders, and five senior lieutenant generals have retired.

"These commanders, with the exception of lieutenant general Kyaw Win, are quite old and may not be in good health," he said.

"Of course, corruption may also be the reason in the case of Ye Myint and Maung Bo."

Regional commanders major general Hla Htay Win of Rangoon Command, major general Ko Ko of Southern Command based in Bago, major general Ohn Myint of Northern Command in Myitkyina and four others who have yet to be identified are to take over the Bureau of Special Operations posts.

This is the first time a group of senior commanders has been dismissed since the purge of the Tun Kyi-Kyaw Ba clique in 1997, but Aung Kyaw Zaw said the changes were unlikely to have much of a political impact.

Former military officer major Aung Set Paing said that perceived mistakes made in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis could have played a role in the reshuffle.

"We may need to take Cyclone Nargis into consideration because there were some issues associated with that cyclone," Aung Set Paing said.

Some people who were dealing with foreign countries made some mistakes and it may be that these people are being made to disappear from the military scene through this reshuffle and retirement," he said.

"As is the usual practice in Burma, new appointees can now claim that they know nothing about what their predecessors did."

Aung Set Paing also highlighted an incident recounted by former regime aid major Aung Linn Htut, who sought political asylum in the US in 2005, as a possible reason for some dismissals.

Aung Linn Htut claimed that Maung Bo and the commander-in-chief of the navy were the commanders involved when an army unit on Zadetkyi island shot and killed 59 Burmese timber smugglers and 22 Thai fishermen on nearby Christie island.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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