Rangoon Chief Minister to be Vice President?

By The Irrawaddy 14 May 2012

Following the resignation of Burma’s Vice-president Tin Aung Myint Oo, several contenders have been involved in intense horse-trading for the vacant post, say insiders in the capital.

One of the surprise candidates to replace the powerful and notoriously corrupt vice-president was no other than Myint Swe, the chief minister for Rangoon Region.

“He has a clean record, has very good PR skills, and is likable and friendly,” a senior army officer told the Irrawaddy.

A businessman who personally knows Myint Swe added that the former general has no reputation for corruption, and closely follows political events in Burma and abroad. “However, he usually takes a low-key approach,” he said.

Myint Swe recently attended the opening of the European Union (EU) representative office. He appeared together with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in cutting the ribbon for the opening ceremony in the former capital.

A graduate of the 15th intake of the Defense Services Academy (DSA) in 1971, Myint Swe, an ethnic Mon, steadily rose to the rank of army officer commanding Light Infantry Division 11 which oversees security in Rangoon.
He was brought to the War Office in Rangoon to replace ex-Brig-Gen Thein Sein who had been promoted to regional commander in the Triangle Region comprising the Thai-Burmese-Lao border area.

In the late 1990s, Myint Swe then took over Thein Sein’s role as general staff officer, a powerful position in the War Office. He worked directly under Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye.

He was promoted to brigadier-general and commanded the Southeast Region before being called back to Rangoon where he became commander of Rangoon Division. Traditionally, only trusted and competent senior army officers are deemed worthy of the Rangoon command. The young army officer had clearly gained the respect of his superiors Than Shwe and Maung Aye.

Myint Swe next became head of the Bureau of Special Operations 5, a department that also oversees security affairs in the former capital.

Myint Swe carefully executed two high-profile operations in Rangoon: the arrest of Gen Ne Win’s family members in 2002 after an alleged coup conspiracy was uncovered; and in 2004 when he was involved in arresting then-intelligence chief and Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt at the airport in Rangoon.

During the “Saffron Revolution” uprising in 2007, Myint Swe led security operations in Rangoon. His campaign to pacify monks by offering them donations of cash and other items failed.

According to the website of the Bangkok-based NGO ALTSEAN, in April 2008, Lt-Gen Myint Swe described to a meeting of some 600 people, which included senior government officials, the junta’s plans for rigging the May 2008 constitutional referendum. The plan included announcing only the final results from Naypyidaw, rather than local tallies.

Myint Swe was also involved in distributing humanitarian aid to Cyclone Nargis victims in 2008. The ALTSEAN website says: “SPDC distributed aid to cyclone survivors but first plastered the boxes with the names of top generals in an apparent effort to turn the cyclone relief effort into a propaganda exercise. State-run television continuously runs images of top generals handing out boxes of aid to survivors at elaborate ceremonies. One box bore the name of Myint Swe in bold letters that overshadowed a smaller label reading: “Aid from the Kingdom of Thailand.”

In 2009, when he was promoted to quartermaster-general of the armed forces and rumors circulated that he was Than Shwe’s choice to become commander-in-chief.

Like Thein Sein, Myint Swe is known to be clean from corruption, approachable, and has gained considerable support and respect in the military. Almost 61, he is more senior than Vice Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing from Intake 19 of DSA, meaning that the current military leaders who are junior to Myint Swe would undoubtedly accept Myint Swe’s appointment, if confirmed.