More than 30 battalion commanders from the Burmese army have been sent to top military academies in what analysts say could be preparation for elections this year.
The reposting has included one army major who was sent to the government’s Defense Services Academy (DSA), Burma’s premier training academy for top-ranking officials.
But analysts believe that the move could be a means to replace existing DSA ‘teachers’ who are being earmarked for roles as military representatives in the post-election parliament.
“[The government] is making selective replacements so that it can systematically leave the army in the hands of trustworthy commanders during the period of transition,” said Htay Aung, chief researcher at the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD).
He added that the junta is selecting officers who, due to health and age, no longer hold active roles in the army and so would be suitable to stand in the elections, while others are being placed in civilian administration offices.
One of the key controversies surrounding elections this year stems from a clause in the 2008 constitution which awards around a quarter of parliamentary seats to the military even prior to voting.
The Burmese junta has said that the elections will herald a transition to a civilian government following decades of military rule, although observers have said the constitution provides ample evidence that the core parts of the current government will survive well beyond the polls.
Htay Aung said that the government has indeed already selected officers to stand for the elections. U Thein Soe, the head of the Electoral Commission, the body charged with overseeing elections, is a former military judge advocate general and is on the EU’s sanctions list.
No date has yet been set for the first elections in Burma for 20 years, although government officials have said that they will occur in the second half of this year.
Despite repeated calls from the international community to ensure elections are free and fair, recently announced laws have effectively forced the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), to boycott them.