Is War Office Reshuffle Related to Info Leak?
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Saturday, October 21, 2017
Burma

Is War Office Reshuffle Related to Info Leak?


By THE IRRAWADDY Saturday, January 16, 2010


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Burma's military junta reassigned six officials from the War Office in Naypyidaw to the front lines last week, in a move that may be related to last year's leak of information about secret military ties between Burma and North Korea.

According to military sources, Col Win Thein, a general staff officer under Joint Chief of Staff (Army, Navy, Air Force) Gen Shwe Mann, and five others were reassigned from the War Office to front-line posts.

The others are Aung Zaw Aye, Theik Soe, Thein Tun Oo, Win Min Tun and Aung Zaw Oo. All are lieutenant colonels with the rank of general staff officer -1. Aung Zaw Oo is from the Military Affairs Security (MAS), the regime's military intelligence agency.

Military sources said as many as 30 other lieutenant colonels and colonels have also been reassigned from their posts over the past month.

Last June, photos and documents detailing a November 2008 visit to Pyongyang by Gen Shwe Mann, who is regarded as the third most powerful figure in the regime, were leaked to the international media. The documents also contained images of tunnels being built by the the Burmese junta, possibly with North Korean technical assistance.

Soon after the leak was reported, dozens of officials from the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including Col Kyaw Kyaw Win, who was the director general of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), were arrested and interrogated. 

Earlier this month, Maj Win Naing Kyaw and a staff member from the Foreign Ministry were sentenced to death for their role in leaking the information. Another staff member from the Foreign Ministry received a long prison sentence.

This has led some analysts to believe that last week's military reshuffle could be related to the information leaks about military ties between Burma and North Korea.

“Reshuffles are normal in the Burmese military, but last week, six officials from the War Office were replaced at the same time. That makes me think there's more to this than routine business,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese military observer based on the Sino-Burmese border. 

In the recent reshuffle, Win Thein was reassigned to serve as the deputy commander of the Northeast Regional Military Command, while the other general staff officers were given positions as temporary tactical operation commanders in front-line commands such as regional operation commands and military operation commands. Four of the posts are in Shan State and one is in Arakan State.

Military sources said general staff officers at the War Office have more authority than temporary tactical operation commanders in front-line commands. They said appointing Win Thein as the deputy commander of the Northeast Regional Military Command was effectively a demotion.

“If someone from the War Office is appointed as a regional military commander, we can say it is promotion. But appointing them deputy regional commander could hardly be called a promotion,” said Win Min, a military researcher based in Thailand.

“Also, temporary tactical operation commanders are not as powerful as general staff officers from the War Office,” he said.

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