Myanmar’s junta has officially sacked two high-ranking generals for alleged bribery and corruption as part of a reshuffle experts said indicates growing instability and disunity within military ranks.
Lt. Gen. Moe Myint Tun and Lt. Gen. Soe Htut, dismissed on Monday, were the seventh- and eighth-highest leaders in the State Administration Council, the governing junta.
Earlier this month, authorities arrested Moe Myint Tun, said to have accepted millions of dollars in bribes from businesspeople during the past two years, but it wasn’t clear if he would be tried.
He is under house arrest and being interrogated in the capital Naypyitaw, according to businesspeople who declined to be named for safety reasons.
Soe Htut was removed as interior minister last month and given a less influential post after serving in the position since 2020.
The junta has ordered four reshuffles since seizing power in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup d’etat, but observers say that stripping the two of their positions and expelling them from the military council was the most severe action yet taken against the regime’s generals since the takeover.
Than Soe Naing, a political commentator, told RFA Burmese that the move suggests the junta is “unstable” and beginning to “disintegrate.”
“Corruption within the military council will not cease, even if these generals are removed and replaced,” he said. “A serious conflict of interest has emerged among the leading generals of the military council. I think this instability shows that the military council is spiraling out of control.”
Crackdown on business dealings
On Tuesday, the official Global New Light of Myanmar announced that Gen. Maung Maung Aye, chief of general staff for the armed forces, and Lt. Gen. Nyo Saw, an adviser to junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, had been appointed as new members of the military council.
Moe Myint Tun and Soe Htut were both absent from the new list of council members and the report mentioned nothing about their removal or where they had been reassigned.
The removal of the two officers is part of a crackdown on trade and finance officials, businesspeople and exporters amid economic turmoil and sanctions as the junta struggles to accumulate foreign revenue and rein in soaring commodity prices, sources say.
Attempts by RFA to contact Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, the junta’s deputy information minister, for comment on the shakeup went unanswered Tuesday.
Thein Tun Oo, the executive director of the Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, which is made up of former military officers, told RFA that the changes were “necessary” as it was “time for a change.”
“We have to view [the dismissals] in the context of what the next step [of the military] will be,” he said.
Thein Tun Oo said that the real reason for the dismissals will remain a matter of speculation until the junta makes an official statement.
“For now, I have only one simple comment: I must say that these changes were made because they were necessary,” he added.
Exploiting exchange rate
The junta arrested another high-ranking military official — Gen. Yan Naung Soe, joint secretary of the Central Committee on Ensuring the Smooth Flow of Trade and Goods — this month amid the crackdown and an investigation of Commerce Ministry officials, the online news outlet Myanmar Now reported.
The committee is responsible for procuring U.S. dollars for trade licensing purposes and other commercial transactions.
The generals have allegedly made millions of dollars from their dealings with traders and by benefiting from the disparity between Myanmar’s official exchange rate of 2,100 kyats to the U.S. dollar and the market rate amid a steep decline in the kyat’s value, Myanmar now reported last week.
‘They know that they won’t last’
Nay Phone Latt, spokesman for the shadow National Unity Government, or NUG, Prime Minister’s Office told RFA that corruption and military generals in Myanmar “are inseparable.”
He said that this junta’s generals may even be more corrupt than those of past juntas “because they know that they won’t last [in power] long.”
“Those who understand that there is not much time left for them think that they will self-serve as much as they can in the remaining time,” he said. “This can be seen not just among high-ranking generals, but middle-ranking and low level service members as well.”
Nay Phone Latt suggested that the dismissals may not only have been punishment for corruption, but also the result of “political issues,” although he did not elaborate.
There were only two or three changes in the positions of top military leaders under the State Law and Order Restoration Council (1988-97) or the State Peace and Development Council (1997-2011), two previous military juntas that ruled Myanmar, according to the Thayninga Institute’s Thein Tun Oo.
Source: Radio Free Asia