Bangkok-Myanmaris awash with rumours that its secretive military leaders are locked in a bitter power struggle.Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known for his close ties to the military junta, told reporters on Jan 28 that “there has been some form of tension inMyanmar”.
“I don’t think it is a coup, but there are tensions and preparations to do something”, he added.
Observers believe thatMyanmar’s two top military leaders – Senior General Than Shwe and the Vice Senior General Maung Aye – are locked in a struggle for control.
Gen Maung Aye is said to be upset because he has been sidelined and overshadowed by Gen Than Shwe’s protégé, Lt-General Soe Win. The latter was appointed Prime Minister to replace General Khin Yunt, who was purged in October because of his opposition to Gen Than Shwe’s hardline views.
The two top generals are also believed to be at odds over how to deal withMyanmar’s ethnic groups, especially those which have ceasefire agreements withYangon.
Signs that their power play have intensified have been fuelled by the unexplained death of Lt-Colonel Bo Win Tun, Gen Maung Aye’s personal assistant, more than a week ago.
Lt-Gen Soe Win has also disappeared from the public eye in recent weeks, leading to speculation that he could be in trouble.
According to the Bangkok Post, military sources said Lt-Gen Soe Win had already been told that he had been sacked from his post as Prime Minister. However, the two top generals apparently could not agree on who should replace him.
Diplomats inYangonbelieve that a new Prime Minister and Cabinet are likely be announced within the next few weeks. Changes to the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the powerful regional commanders are also in the pipeline.
Although these changes are likely to see more of Gen Maung Aye’s people replacing Gen Than Shwe loyalists, the final line-up will still maintain a fine balance of power between the two generals.
“Maung Aye does not want to confront Than Shwe outright, but he does want to clip his power base,” a senior Asian diplomat said.
Yangon’s military leaders, as expected, were quick to deny any talk of attempted coup or a power struggle.“It’s all rumours; everything is fine,” Foreign Minister Nyan Win told journalists on Jan 28.
*Power struggle increases uncertainty (Bangkok Post, Jan 31)
*Thaksin sees rising tensions in junta (The Nation, Jan 29)