Yangon (Myanmar): A message from Myanmar`s
junta chief Senior Gen Than Shwe appeared in state media
on Tuesday, dispelling reports that he had stepped down from the
army as part of a major military reshuffle ahead of elections.
The message was a typical note of congratulations to
Malaysia on its Independence Day and made no reference to the
military reshuffle the largest in more than a decade.
But it was carried on the front page of the country`s
three official newspapers and the subtext was clear: Than Shwe
is still in charge.
The military reshuffle that occurred Friday retired more
than a dozen senior leaders, though it has yet to be
officially announced by the highly secretive junta.
It was an apparent move to prepare for Nov 7 national
elections, the first in two decades.
Than Shwe has ruled the country since 1992. The rumors of
his retirement, along with that of his second-in-command Maung
Aye, suggested they were being groomed for roles as president
and vice president in the new government after elections.
Since military reshuffles are often never formally
announced, when rumors of such shifts spread through Myanmar
society, citizens carefully follow television and news reports
to see if leaders are referred to with new titles.
"Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace
and Development Council, has sent a message of felicitations"
to the king of Malaysia to mark the country`s Independence
Day, the New Light of Myanmar and other newspapers reported.
The message referred both to Than Shwe`s military rank
and his title as head of the ruling junta`s government, known
as the SPDC, effectively putting to rest reports by several
media outlets that had reported his resignation last week.
The elections are portrayed by the regime as a key step
to shifting to civilian rule after five decades of military
domination, but critics call them a sham and say the military
shows little sign of relinquishing control.
Friday`s reshuffle included about two dozen officials,
notably the junta`s third- and fourth-ranking generals, Thura
Shwe Mann, who served as Joint Chief of Staff, and Tin Aung
Myint Oo, who was the army`s Quartermaster General, according
to officials who are close to the military but could not be
named because the reshuffle was not
It was the second since April, when 27 senior officials,
including Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein, retired from the
Under the country`s new constitution, 25 per cent of the
seats in Parliament will go to military representatives. If
retiring generals run for Parliament they would not be counted
in the military`s quota although they are likely to enhance
the army`s influence.