Myanmar Army Replaces Rakhine Commander

By Htet Naing Zaw 14 November 2017

NAYPYITAW — Myanmar’s military on Friday replaced Maj-Gen Maung Soe, the head of the Western Command responsible for Rakhine and Chin states, with Supply and Transport Directorate chief Brig-Gen Soe Tint Naing.

The major-general, a graduate of the 27th Intake of the Defense Services Academy, was transferred to the Defense Ministry. He was not given a new assignment, but has been placed on a reserve list.

The Tatmadaw gave no reason for the transfer, but it coincides with the disclosure of US plans to impose targeted sanctions on Myanmar’s military leadership. It is also believed to be partly in response to ongoing clashes with the Arakan Army (AA) in Paletwa in southern Chin State.

A Tatmadaw investigation team said in a statement released on Monday evening that it would continue “to take action against those who show weakness in administration and the collecting of information necessary for maintaining security in the region.”

“I heard that it was because of the Paletwa case. Before that, there were also problems related to the Rakhine issue. These are the causes,” according to a retired military officer who is now a Lower House lawmaker, and who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Tatmadaw has not released an official statement about military casualties sustained in an ambush by AA troops on a vessel carrying troops in Chin State’s Paletwa Township on Nov. 8, but according to unconfirmed sources, 11 Myanmar Army personnel — two officers and nine other ranks — were killed.

The Tatmadaw also replaced Maj-Gen Min Zaw, the director-general of the Directorate of Supply and Transport, with Brig-Gen Zaw Lwin Oo. Maj-Gen Min Zaw was also put on the reserve list.

On Oct. 23, the US State Department announced sanctions against senior figures in the Myanmar Army, citing alleged human rights violations in military operations in Rakhine State that followed militant attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Maungdaw on Aug. 25.

A spokeswoman for the US State Department, Katina Adams, said the United States was aware of reports of the Rakhine State commander’s replacement, Reuters reported.

“We remain gravely concerned by continuing reports of violence and human rights abuses committed by Burmese security forces and vigilantes. Those responsible for abuses must be held accountable,” Adams said.

The Myanmar Army denies the atrocities and use of excessive force against Rohingya Muslims during clearance operations that sent more than 600,000 fleeing to Bangladesh.

In its report, the Tatmadaw investigation team, led by Inspector-General of Defense Services Lt-Gen Aye Win, said that “all security personnel abided by the orders and directives of superior bodies, especially the rules of engagement — ROE — in connection with the rights of self-defense and in discharging duties during the armed conflicts and anti-terrorist operations.”