Notorious Junta General Removed from Upper Myanmar Command as Resistance Intensifies

By The Irrawaddy 18 February 2022

One of the Myanmar junta’s most notorious commanders, Lieutenant General Than Hlaing, has been removed from his position leading clearance operations against civilian resistance groups in the country’s most restive region.

His removal from the role based at northwestern command in Monywa, Sagaing Region is an indication that the military regime’s attempts to crush armed resistance in Upper Myanmar are failing.

Lt-Gen Than Hlaing was appointed as chief of the Myanmar Police and deputy home affairs minister the day after last year’s February 1 coup. Since then, he has earned notoriety for commanding lethal crackdowns against peaceful anti-regime protesters and striking civil servants.

One of his victims was his own brother. Lt-Gen Than Hlaing’s younger brother Ko So Moe Hlaing, 53, a veteran pro-democracy activist, was tortured to death last May while in military custody in Bago Region.

In October, Lt-Gen Than Hlaing was assigned to command the mission to crush People’s Defense Forces (PDF) in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin State.

However, Upper Myanmar remains the most restive part of the country, despite thousands of junta reinforcements arriving in the region since his appointment.

Fighting between regime forces and resistance groups has intensified in recent months, with the Myanmar military suffering heavy casualties. In response, junta forces have escalated their attacks against civilian targets in the areas where PDFs are most active.

Lieutenant General Than Tun Oo will replace Lt-Gen Than Hlaing as head of clearance operations in northwestern command. However, Lt-Gen Than Hlaing will remain as chief of the Myanmar Police and deputy home affairs minister.

The European Union, United States, United Kingdom and Canada have all imposed sanctions on Lt-Gen Than Hlaing for overseeing the regime’s brutal crackdowns on civilians.

A senior position such as leading clearance operations is normally only assigned to generals who are being considered for further promotion. Some military sources are speculating that Lt-Gen Than Hlaing’s removal could mean a fall from grace for one of the junta’s most aggressive commanders.

Previously, the junta also ousted Brigadier General Phyo Thant from his position as chief of the northwestern regional command. He was replaced by Major General Than Hteik. Brig-Gen Phyo Thant was subsequently appointed as deputy minister for border affairs.

As of February 11, 1,557 people have been killed by the junta since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Over 12,000 people have been detained by the regime or are the subject of arrest warrants.

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