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Myanmar reshuffles military, government

The changes came as the junta held a top-level meet in its secret new War Office compound outside the central town of Pyinmana.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 11:38 IST

Myanmar's secretive junta has begun reshuffling military and government officials, in its latest drive to consolidate its hold on power, sources close to the military said on Tuesday.

The changes came as the junta held a top-level meeting in its secret new War Office compound outside the central town of Pyinmana, where the military regime has built a new administrative capital.

Among the highest-level moves so far, Myanmar's Prime Minister Soe Win is losing his position as chief of staff for air defence and will no longer hold any military post, while remaining the premier, the sources said.

His replacement is Brigadier General Myint Hlaing, who is believed responsible for instigating the ouster of former Prime Mnister Khin Nyunt, the only member of the regime who showed any willingness to talk with detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

New generals were appointed to six of the 13 regional commands, with most of the outgoing commanders given Cabinet posts.

Changes within the military are never announced publicly as the junta keeps a tight lid on all its activities.

The military even blocked cell phone signals around the administrative capital to maintain silence about the proceedings.

The junta did announce in official media a slate of changes within the government, mainly involving low-ranking positions including the ministers for culture, social welfare, tourism and electricity.

Thailand-based Myanmar analyst Aung Naing Oo told the agency in Bangkok that the latest changes were another effort by junta supremo Than Shwe to consolidate his power by promoting generals loyal to him.

"You have these new people coming in and taking positions, especially those who are up and coming and who have shown great loyalty to the regime," he said.

"You have to create some new positions to make way for some other people to keep their loyalty intact," he said.

Sources close to the military in Yangon expected more changes as the generals wrap up their meeting later this week.

The reshuffle comes amid a new drive by the junta to crack down on its rivals, stepping up pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy while waging an offensive against the country's largest rebel group in eastern Myanmar.