On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s Military Intelligence Chief was Sacked

By The Irrawaddy 19 October 2020

Yangon — On this day in 2004, Myanmar’s military regime arrested General Khin Nyunt, the military intelligence chief and prime minister, who was notorious for sending thousands of political dissidents to prison in the 1990s and early 2000s, when military intelligence was immensely powerful.

At the time Gen. Khin Nyunt was the third most powerful leader in the regime, which was then known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) led by Senior General Than Shwe. The Oct. 19 announcement said he was retiring on health grounds.

Gen. Maung Aye, the regime’s second-in-command, summoned Gen. Khin Nyunt to his office and said: “Please go home. We are questioning you. Please go home and go nowhere else.”

Lieutenant General Soe Win, who was present at the meeting, was appointed prime minister. Gen. Khin Nyunt, after 14 months as prime minister, was arrested along with other intelligence officers.

In an interview, deputy director of military intelligence Major General Kyaw Win quoted Snr-Gen Than Shwe saying Gen. Khin Nyunt always defied other generals and that he was tired of having to mediate between him and other generals. He reportedly said Gen. Khin Nyunt served as the prime minister and intelligence chief concurrently, in defiance of his orders, and some generals said he was a viper in the regime’s bosom.

Five days after detaining U Khin Nyunt, SPDC member Gen. Thura Shwe Mann, who is now chairman of the Union Betterment Party, met the press. He said the regime announced that it was allowing Gen. Khin Nyunt to retire in consideration of his reputation and his family. However, he was really sacked for disobedience, breaking the law, bribery and corruption related to his family.

Former information minister U Ye Htut wrote in his book Myanmar’s Political Transition and Lost Opportunities (2010-16) that the ex-prime minister claimed the purge was partly in response to his suggestion that National League for Democracy leaders Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo should be released from house arrest but not allowed to attend the national convention which drafted the 2008 Constitution.

The court-martial handed him 44 years in prison but he only faced house arrest at his home in Mayangone Township, Yangon. After nearly seven years of house arrest, Gen. Khin Nyunt was pardoned in 2012 by President U Thein Sein.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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