The Graying of the Tatmadaw
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Saturday, June 15, 2024


The Graying of the Tatmadaw

By Aung Zaw JULY, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.7


Unlike former Burmese strongman Ne Win, junta boss Snr-Gen Than Shwe believes in hanging on to his top military post, along with his colleagues. That belies the armed forces’ claim that it is being rejuvenated


Senior officers of Burma’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, claim the officer corps is being rejuvenated with new, young blood. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. The same old faces are there at the helm of the regime, with little sign they are going soon.



The trouble is these senior generals show little desire to leave their posts, and any ambitious new, younger faces must face this ceiling, even though the generals are staying way past their official retirement age of 60.


Commander of the Tatmadaw, as well as junta boss, Snr-Gen Than Shwe is about 76, though he officially chooses not to disclose his true age. A deeply superstitious man, perhaps he may fear some sort of astrological consequence if he reveals it. His number two man in the regime, and also army commander, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, is now 67. Other senior generals are almost all in their 60s.


Than Shwe became armed forces commander in 1992, and Maung Aye was appointed army commander and deputy commander of defense services in 1993. According to the military’s mandatory retirement age of 60, both should have had to relinquish their posts long ago. But they haven’t.


Than Shwe and Maung Aye are the two remaining members of the ruling council who took power in 1988. Others in the council have either been officially retired or purged. There have been persistent rumors that when Than Shwe and Maung Aye do retire, they will go together. Than Shwe is reliably reported not to trust Maung Aye, and presumably would not want him to retain his army command after he, Than Shwe, has stood down.


Despite relentless rumors recently that he was about to be marginalized, the army commander has kept his position. He even gained credit in army ranks by demoting his brother-in-law, Maj-Gen Maung Maung Swe, from head of the coastal region command, where he was involved in corruption, to the ministry of social welfare, relief and resettlement.


But at the same time, military analysts think that both Than Shwe and Maung Aye are preparing eventually to promote their trusted prot?g?s to lead the Tatmadaw.

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