Air force chief among those removed from posts as junta’s reliance on planes and helicopters grows 

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has removed several top generals from their posts in an apparent move to consolidate his power, almost a year after he made himself military commander-in-chief for life. 

Among those replaced in the reshuffle is air force commander General Maung Maung Kyaw, who leaves as the military is becoming highly reliant on planes and helicopters to fight resistance forces inflicting heavy casualties against its ground troops. 

Just three days after last year’s February coup, Min Aung Hlaing issued a directive scrapping a rule that would have forced him to retire last year on his 65th birthday. He also scrapped the rule for his deputy commander-in-chief, Soe Win. 

On top of that, he raised the service years for generals and lieutenant generals from 4 to 6. But 57-year-old General Maung Maung Kyaw was nonetheless removed from his post on Monday.

His replacement will be Tun Aung, who served under Maung Maung Kyaw as air force chief of staff and was promoted from Lieutenant General to General on Monday so he could serve in the new role.  

As always with Myanmar’s opaque military, the exact reasons behind the reshuffle are unclear. “It’s according to the army’s tradition,” junta spokesperson General Zaw Min Tun said in an interview with Eleven Media on Tuesday. 

“It’s just like when we replaced General Tin Aung San with General Moe Aung,” he added, referring to the replacement last February of the navy chief, who was then made transport and communications minister. 

Maung Maung Kyaw will continue to serve in a political role as a member of the military council, while Tun Aung and others moving into top positions this week will serve in a purely military capacity. 

“Maybe they don’t like him anymore, or maybe they wanted someone newer,” a source close to the military told Myanmar Now. “We’ve been told that his successor is a very good-natured and soft-spoken person.” 

Lieutenant General Aung Lin Dwe, who is also the military council’s secretary, was also removed from his military position as the Judge Advocate General earlier this week but will keep his political post. 

In the immediate aftermath of the coup General Mya Tun Oo was removed from his position as the chief of general staff for the army, navy, and air force, which is the third most senior role in the military.

The general, who was once tipped to become commander-in-chief, was demoted to defence minister. He was replaced by General Maung Maung Aye, who does not have a role on the military council. 

The current chief of staff of the army, Lieutenant General Moe Myint Tun, will remain in his role and continue to serve as a member of the military council. 

Chief of military security affairs Lieutenant General Ye Win Oo will also keep his post and continue to serve as the military council’s joint secretary.

It is common for those who are removed from top military posts to be put in non-combat related positions while still wearing military uniform.

Min Aung Hlaing’s hold over the military hierarchy started to strengthen when he began assigning generals who were much younger than him to important positions in 2017.

Moe Myint Tun, the new chief of staff, is known as the right hand of Min Aung Hlaing and has been tipped to become commander-in-chief one day. 

He graduated from the 30th batch of the Defence Services Academy and is 10 years younger than Min Aung Hlaing. 

As well as promoting him within the military last year, Min Aung Hlaing made him a member of the military council and chair of the Myanmar Investment Commission.

Another younger man favoured by Min Aung Hlaing is Lieutenant General Ye Win Oo, who was born in 1966. He was made chief military security officer after the coup as well as associate secretary of the military council.

The military’s youngest Lieutenant General, 51-year-old Kyaw Swar Lin, was appointed quartermaster general by Min Aung Hlaing in May 2020 after serving as head of the Central Command in Mandalay. 


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