For decades, Myanmar was ruled by fear of the MIóthe dreaded Military Intelligence. The ouster in 2004 of former spy master Gen Khin Nyunt marked the end of the MIís reign of terror, but not of MI-phobia.
Even after his release from house arrest earlier this year, some of his subordinates remain behind barsómost notably, ex-Brig-Gen Than Tun, the head of the MIís counter intelligence unit and political department. Sentenced to 160 years in prison, he is unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon.
His crime: gathering information on high-ranking military officials, against the orders of ex-supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe himself. Evidently, ordinary citizens werenít alone in feeling the MIís baleful influence: senior members of the former junta, including the countryís top general and his deputies, also distrusted its constant scrutiny.
According to former counter-intelligence officer and Myanmar deputy chief of mission to Washington ex-Maj Aung Lynn Htut, suspicion of the MI still runs deep among senior leaders of the current government. Besides keeping MI officials under lock and key, the former regime and its successor have made sure that the Military Affairs Security, which was formed to replace the MI, never gets a chance to accumulate the same sort of power.
This story first appeared in the December 2012 print issue of The Irrawaddy magazine.