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Burma has named its new army chief as General Min Aung Hlaing, apparently replacing the ageing junta supremo Than Shwe who has ruled the country since 1992.
Min Aung Hlaing has been a rising star in the military regime, having led operations against the insurgent group, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), in the Kokang area in 2009.
Until today he held the position of Chief of Bureau of Special Operations – 2 (Shan and Karenni states), and has been a key plank in the now-dissolved State Peace and Development Council’s (SPDC) persistent conflicts with northern rebels, where he was involved in negotiations.
His ascent will not surprise analysts, having been tipped for the role several weeks ago. But the position he will occupy is likely to different to before, a more ceremonial role where he will act as subordinate to the newly-formed State Supreme Council (SSC), which will be headed by Than Shwe.
It appears the SSC will become the new junta, with former Vice Senior General Maung Aye, new President Thein Sein, Vice President Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo and former junta number three, Shwe Mann, completing the shadowy body, which is seemingly scant on legitimacy and is not mandated by the 2008 constitution.
Min Aung Hlaing is however seen as a ‘go-getter’ and was recently in the spotlight when former Adjutant General Myint Aung was suddenly dismissed and placed under house arrest in February. It was alleged that he refused the position of defence minister which, tellingly in Burma, is seen as subordinate to commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the role that the younger Min Aung Hlaing has taken.
As military defector Aung Lynn Htut earlier told DVB, “It is certain that Gen Myint Aung was slated to become the commander-in-chief of the Defence Services before. But, the senior general [Than Shwe] seemed to change his mind later and asked Gen Myint Aung to become the defence minister. Gen Myint Aung apparently does not want to work as a minister under commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.”
He continued that Myint Aung had asked for another ministerial post. “But, in the military that is tantamount to a complaint or a defiance. That probably angered the senior general and I believe that report is true.”
Min Aung Hlaing was from Intake 19 of the Defence Services Academy, and went on to command a Light Infantry Brigade in Burma’s eastern Mon state. In 2002 he as promoted to commander of the Triangle Regional Military Command, and six years later became Bureau of Special Operations-2 (BSO-2). In this position he commanded the assault on the MDNAA, commandeering operations which were criticised for alleged widespread looting in the siege of Laogai, Shan state.