45 Senior Military Officers Retire to Contest Nov. 8 Poll

By The Irrawaddy 11 August 2015

RANGOON — Forty-five senior military officers have retired from active service to join the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), with plans to contest Burma’s Nov. 8 general election, according to people familiar with the situation.

Among the retirees are Lt-Gen Myint Soe, Lt-Gen Aung Than Htut, Lt-Gen Hla Min and Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, all of whom were chiefs of the Ministry of Defense’s Bureaus of Special Operations 1-4, respectively.

In addition to heading Bureau of Special Operations-4, Khin Zaw Oo was bestowed a more ignominious title in November of last year, when a Harvard human rights institute all but labeled him a war criminal. A report from Harvard University’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) said sufficient proof had been gathered to issue International Criminal Court arrest warrants for Khin Zaw Oo and two other generals, who the report claimed could be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with a 2005-06 Burma Army offensive in Karen State.

With the four special operations chiefs entering partisan politics, Maj-Gen Tun Tun Naung was promoted to chief of Bureau of Special Operations-1; Lt-Gen Yar Pyae will head Bureau of Special Operations-2; Maj-Gen Aung Kyaw Zaw will assume the role for Bureau of Special Operations-3; and Maj-Gen Min Naung will command Bureau of Special Operations-4, according to a document seen by The Irrawaddy detailing the promotions.

Meanwhile, Burma Navy commander-in-chief Adm. Thura Thet Swe has also retired from his post to contest under the USDP banner for the Rangoon Division constituency of Coco Island, with Vice-Admiral Tin Aung San promoted to serve as his replacement. Commodore Moe Aung, the son of the late USDP lawmaker Aung Thaung, was promoted to Burma Navy chief of staff.

Among the 45 military officers promoted to replace the parliamentary aspirants, two are lieutenant-generals; 11 are major-generals; 20 are brigadier-generals; and 12 are colonels.

Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe and Lt-Gen Mya Tun Oo, both seen as prospective future commanders in chief, have remained in their positions as heads of Bureau of Special Operations-5 and 6, respectively.

Another senior military officer who will contest the November poll is chief of general staff for the Burma Army, Navy and Air Force, Gen. Hla Htay Win, who was revealed as a USDP candidate at a party event in Rangoon on July 29. The USDP is already made up of several former generals, including President Thein Sein and parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann, who retired from active service to contest Burma’s 2010 general election.

Other senior military leaders’ retirements are also expected ahead of this year’s nationwide vote.