Intelligence (November 2008)
covering burma and southeast asia
Thursday, June 20, 2024

Intelligence (November 2008)



Four Rising Stars

Military sources have reported that there are four army officers favored by Snr-Gen Than Shwe who could potentially become commander in chief of Burma’s armed forces: Lt-Gen Myint Swe, head of the Bureau of Special Operations (5) and a member of the ruling junta; Lt-Gen Myint Hlaing, the air defense chief; Maj-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, commander of the Triangle Region Command; and Gen Thura Myint Aung, currently serving as adjutant general at the Defense Ministry.

Although Myint Swe has an advantage thanks to his close personal ties to Than Shwe and his wife, the other contenders also warrant close attention. Thura Myint Aung was formerly posted in Irrawaddy Division as the commander of the Southeast Regional Command—a position that often leads to promotion to the top post. Min Aung Hlaing, who has recently appeared in state-run newspapers and has held a series of meetings with ceasefire groups in northern Shan State, also looks like a serious candidate for the position.

The reports follow the apparent fall from grace of Gen Thura Shwe Mann, whose two sons’ high-profile business activities have attracted the disapproving attention of Than Shwe and his deputy, army chief Gen Maung Aye.

Cracks among the Wa?

Wei Hsueh-kang

The United Wa State Army (UWSA), a powerful ceasefire group, is facing deepening divisions and may soon split due to pressure from the Burmese military regime to disarm, according to sources close to the group.

Two factions have coalesced around rival leaders Bao Yuxiang and Wei Hsueh-kang, who are believed to be at loggerheads over how to respond to demands from the junta, which wants the UWSA to lay down arms and participate in the upcoming 2010 election.

Sources on the Burma-China border said that Wei, an alleged drug trafficker who is wanted in neighboring Thailand, wants to transform the Wa army into a pro-junta militia group, while Bao has been more resistant to pressure from Naypyidaw.

Wei reportedly expressed a willingness to work more closely with the regime as it makes a bid for legitimacy based on a new constitution and the 2010 election.

UWSA Chairman Bao and his supporters, meanwhile, are reportedly carrying out military training exercises at the UWSA headquarters of Panghsang, perhaps in anticipation of a clash with Burmese troops. The UWSA has an estimated 20,000 soldiers deployed along Burma’s borders with Thailand and China.

 Refugee Resettlement Program Under Review

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, in October temporarily suspended its resettlement program for asylum seekers in nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border in order to carry out a thorough review.

The move is believed to be in response to reports that some Burmese seeking to migrate to Western countries were using the services of brokers to win recognition as refugees so they could take advantage of the program. The scheme also allegedly involved some camp authorities, members of nongovernmental organizations and UN staff.

According to sources, brokers enabled Burmese without refugee status to resettle overseas for a fee of between 50,000 and 100,000 baht (US $1,500-3,000). One recently published report in a Burmese-language newspaper based in Thailand said that a family paid about 300,000 baht ($9,000) to resettle in the US after moving from Rangoon to the Noh Poe refugee camp in Thailand’s Umphang Province.

Such abuses have inevitably affected many legitimate asylum seekers. Sources say that some refugees who applied to join the resettlement program were rejected because their names were already on the list of applicants who had been resettled, apparently as a result of identity theft.

The sources added that others, who have already been approved, are now stranded in the camps, as the UNHCR conducts its investigation into these and other irregularities.

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