The news that Myanmar’s air force chief has been forced to step down has prompted speculation about the role as the military regime is relying increasingly on airstrikes when fighting resistance groups across the country.
General Maung Maung Kyaw, who has overseen deadly airstrikes on villagers and displaced civilians, was forced to retire on Jan. 10 and replaced by air force chief of staff, Lieutenant General Tun Aung.
Some say his departure followed the military’s retirement policy while others speculate that the move was because of animosity from regime leader Min Aung Hlaing.
Maung Maung Kyaw was appointed in January 2018 and his retirement was due this month under the policy that limits full generals’ terms to four years.
Retirement is not, however, mandatory, with two-year extensions available.
Some generals close to Min Aung Hlaing have served six years in the three roles that carry the rank of full general: chief of the general staff of the army, navy and air force – the third-highest military rank – and the naval and air force chiefs.
General Khin Aung Myint was air force chief for more than five years from 2013 to 2018. He was concurrently chief of the general staff for more than a year and was the first general to hold both positions at the same time.
Admiral Tin Aung San was naval chief for six years from 2015 to August 2021 when he was appointed transport and communications minister by the regime.
The two generals stayed on for more than four years because both served the interests of Min Aung Hlaing, said a retired lieutenant general.
General Mya Tun Oo, who was once tipped to be the next senior general, was chief of the general staff from August 2016 to January 2021 and appointed defense minister after the coup.
General Hla Htay Win, who allegedly had a poor relationship with Min Aung Hlaing, was moved on after four years as the chief of the general staff after four years from April 2011 to August 2015.
Admiral Thura Thet Swe, 60, retired as naval chief after three years from 2012 to August 2015 before he reached retirement age.
According to military sources at the time, he was sacked because Min Aung Hlaing did not like his wife who was a doctor who often failed to attend military events and show him enough respect.
The fate of former generals supports rumors of animosity between Min Aung Hlaing and Maung Maung Kyaw.
Major General Lwin Oo, the deputy air force chief, retired before retirement age over his allegedly poor performance during the conflict in Kokang near the Chinese border in early 2015.
He was dismissed after most of the missiles landed in Chinese territory, said a retired lieutenant general.
Min Aung Hlaing has often ignored military policies on promotion and retirement when organizing his staff. He promoted the head of a non-combat unit to lieutenant general, which is unprecedented in the military’s recent history. The rank has previously only been awarded to regional commanders.
Lieutenant General Aung Lin Dwe was sacked as judge advocate general and transferred to the reserve force. He, however, remains the secretary of the State Administration Council, the regime’s governing body.
He was replaced by Major General Myo Thant Naing, who was promoted to lieutenant general and was previously the recruitment chief.
To conclude, generals’ retirement date does appear to be linked to their relationship with Min Aung Hlaing.
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