20 June 2008, New Delhi - In a change of guard, Burma's secretive military rulers have carried out a major reshuffle in the cabinet and in key positions held by its military commanders.
While the junta officially announced the reshuffle of its cabinet ministers, the change of guard in its military command and Bureau of Special Operations was not disclosed, as usual.
The junta's state-run radio and television on Friday announced that Major General Maung Maung Swe, who earlier held two posts, has been left with just one - Minister for handling Post-Cyclone Management, Resettlement. One of his earlier portfolios, Minister for Immigration and Population, was given to Maj. Gen. Saw Lwin.
Saw Lwin's earlier post, Minister of Industries (2), has been given to Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Soe Thein, a move viewed by observers as shunting him from power.
Meanwhile, the Burmese junta not surprisingly made several other changes among its military commanders, including promoting younger officers to commanders and pushing effective commanders into higher ranks. This, however, was not announced.
Sources in the military establishment said the junta has ordered the transfer of four of its key military commanders to positions at the Bureau of Special Operations (BSO).
The four commanders - Maj Gen Aung Than Htut, Commander of the Northeastern Military Command, Maj Gen Ohn Myint Commander of Northern Military Command, Maj Gen Min Aung Hlaing, and Maj Gen. Ko Ko Commander of Southern Military Command – were transferred to positions in the Bureau of Special Operations.
According to the source, among the retiring BSO officers are seniors like Junta's Joint Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Gen. Thura Shwe Mann, who is number three in the junta's hierarchy.
The source said it was inconvenient for Shwe Mann to give orders to BSO officers, as they were senior to him.
Burma's military establishment has a total of five officers in its BSO. While Maj Gen Maung Bo, one of the five BSO officers was spared, the other four – Maj. Gen. Ye Myint, Maj. Gen. Aung Htwe, Maj. Gen. Kyaw Win, and Maj Gen. Khin Maung Thann - were made to retire, in order to make way for the newly transferred officers.
Sources said Brig. Gen. Kyaw Phyo, Commandant of General Staff College in Kalaw was promoted to Commander of Triangle Command, Brig. Gen. Yar Pyae, former Defence Services Medical Academy (DSMA) to Commandant of Eastern Command Commander, and Brig. Gen. Hla Min of the LID 11 has been promoted to Commander of Southern Command.
While Brig. Gen Soe Win commandant of General Staff College in Than Daung has been promoted to Northern Command Commander, Brig. Gen Win Myint of the Light Infantry Division (LID) 77 was promoted as Commander of Strategic Command, Rangoon Division, which is crucial for maintaining power.
The junta also switched two of its commanders' posts. Brig. Gen. Thaung Aye was transferred from Eastern to Western Command, while Brig. Gen. Maung Shein from Western to Northeastern Command.
Meanwhile, the junta also transferred Rangoon Commander Maj. Gen. Hla Htay Win to Chief Military Training, a post held by Lt. Gen Aung Htwe, who will now retire, sources said.
"Almost all commanders have been reshuffled, the only two who are not transferred are [Snr. Gen.] Than Shwe and [Vice Snr. Gen.] Maung Aye," the source in the military establishment said.