Myint Swe: The Tatmadaw’s Next Top Dog?

Lt-Gen Myint Swe is being widely tipped to succeed Snr-Gen Than Shwe as the Burmese army’s next commander in chief, according to several dissidents in exile and Burma observers.

Rumors have circulated that Myint Swe is junta strongman Than Shwe’s favored choice to take over from him. Myint Swe was recently promoted to quartermaster general of the Tatmadaw, Burma’s armed forces, and is also commander of the Bureau of Special Operations 5.According to analysts, Myint Swe’s appointment indicates that the junta chief intends to pave the way for him to assume a top-ranking position in the military’s hierarchy. Traditionally, a quartermaster in the Tatmadaw is among the names in the hat who could feasibly be promoted to commander in chief of Burma’s armed forces.

Myint Swe reportedly caught Than Shwe’s eye in 2002 when he was involved in the arrests of late dictator Gen Ne Win’s family after an alleged coup conspiracy was uncovered. Then, in October 2004, Myint Swe proved his loyalty to Than Shwe by heading the purge against former military intelligence chief Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt. Myint Swe became a second lieutenant officer after he graduated from the 15th intake of the Defence Services Academy in 1971. He was promoted to commanding officer of Infantry Battalion 404 and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming commanding officer of Light Infantry Division 11 overseeing security in Rangoon. He then served as commander of Southwest Military Region in Bassein, Irrawaddy Division, before moving to the War Office in the late 1990s where he worked directly under Than Shwe and Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, reputedly becoming their close confidante.

In 2001, Myint Swe made brigadier-general as the commander of the Southeast Region when he succeeded Maj-Gen Thiha Thura Sit Maung who had died in a helicopter crash. As a divisional commander and a favorite of Burma’s “first lady,” Than Shwe’s wife Kyaing Kyaing, Myint Swe took over Rangoon Command and was promoted to major-general.

As a commander in Rangoon and chief of Military Affairs Security, he failed to catch the culprits when the former capital was rocked by a series of bomb blasts in 2005, which killed 21 people and injured dozens more. Nonetheless, his reputation and loyalty within the military elite went unquestioned.

As chief of both the Bureau of Special Operations 5 and Military Affairs Security, Myint Swe undoubtedly played a ruthless role in the crackdown and handling of monk-led demonstrations in September 2007.

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