Behind The Military Shake-up
covering burma and southeast asia
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Behind The Military Shake-up

By Win Htein Friday, January 11, 2002

After more than five weeks of mass dismissals in Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council, ten Brigadier-Generals were appointed as new regional commanders on December 18. There are still no plans however, to fill the Secretary Two position that has been vacant since Lt-Gen Tin Oo was killed in a helicopter crash last February, and the position of Secretary Three, which was formerly held by Lt-Gen Win Myint, who was dismissed on November 9. The junta's spokesman Gen Kyaw Win confirmed the new appointments but gave no further detail. The roster of commanders transferred to their new posts includes: Brig-Gen Maung Oo, from Tavoy-based No-8 Military Operation Management Command (MOMC) to Western commander; Brig-Gen Chit Than, from Bokepyin-based No-13 MOMC to Triangle commander; Brig-Gen Ye Myint, from Light Infantry Division (LID) No-101 to Central Commander; Brig-Gen Myint Swe, from Southeast command to Rangoon commander; Brig-Gen Myint Hlaing, from Thein-di-based No-16 MOMC to Northeast commander; Brig-Gen Soe Naing, from Kalay-based No-10 MOMC to Northwest commander; Brig-Gen Khin Maung Myint, from Moekaung-based No-3 MOMC to Eastern commander; Brig-Gen Maung Maung Swe, from No-77 LID to Northern commander; Brig-Gen Aung Min, from No-66 LID to Western commander; and Brig-Gen Htay Oo, from No-99 LID to Southwest commander. Additionally, Brig-Gen Thura Myint Aung from No-22 LID was appointed Southeast commander, replacing Brig-Gen Myint Swe, who was transferred to Rangoon. Only Gen Aye Kywe retained his old position at the coastal command. Six of the ten former commanders have become chief staff at the War Office in Rangoon while the other four have been appointed as chiefs in the Bureau of Special Operations. Those four are: Lt-Gen Maung Bo, from Eastern command to Taungyi-based No-1 BSO; Lt-Gen Ye Myint, from Central command to Mandalay-based No-2 BSO; Lt-Gen Khin Maung Than, from Rangoon command to Pegu-based No-3 BSO; and Lt-Gen Aung Htwe, from Western command to Pathein-based No-4 BSO. The BSO will run all 12 regional commands, the seven states and seven divisions. The BSO was formed in November, shortly after the dismissals of Win Myint and other top generals. The controversial revamping of the command structure is reportedly causing confusion in military circles. "The present military shuffle is unusual, different and complicated. This scenario is unprecedented in Burmese military history," said U Htay Aung, a Burmese defense researcher in Thailand. "I feel the BSO is similar to the Thai military setup of armies under the Supreme Command." The Thai Supreme Command aims to streamline and centralize control thereby curbing the power of the commanders of each armed forces branch. Similarly, the SPDC was eager to prevent the regional commanders from becoming warlords in their respective areas while at the same time drawing a clear distinction between the regional and divisional commanders that manage troops and the SPDC members that hold the political reins. According to military researchers, the current SPDC army has about 350,000 active personnel. There are 329 Light Infantry Battalions and 197 Infantry Battalions, and each battalion consists of between 500 to 700 men. Furthermore, with the inclusion of other support and logistic battalions—including 12 military intelligence battalions, 27 communications battalions, 55 artillery battalions, 55 engineering battalions, transport battalions, plus the Navy and the Air Force—the total military strength could well exceed 400,000 men. They have reduced intelligence battalions from 27 to 12 in order to reduce possible tensions between Military Intelligence Services headed by Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, and the army, which is led by Gen Maung Aye. Now there will be one MI battalion based in each army command. "There could be political rationale behind the new military shake-up," said a journalist in exile. "But I'm not sure where they are heading." U Htay Aung hoped that the military shake-up would spur progress in the15-month old dialogue between Khin Nyunt and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. "In fact, there are now only three top generals remaining in the SPDC who participated in crushing the pro-democracy uprising of 8-8-88. All new regional commanders and all the BSO chiefs are new blood. So I hope this reshuffle will help the talks go forward." One source suggested the impetus behind the reshuffle was "to prepare the military to transfer power to a civilian government, or to prepare the military to never transfer power to a civilian government."

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