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Military Purge Seen in Burma - 2002-03-10


Burma's military government is preparing to carry out a major purge within the military's ranks. The purge follows the foiling late last week of a coup plot allegedly planned by four relatives of former dictator, Ne Win.

A purge of the ranks within Burma's military is now expected to get underway following the successful foiling of a planned coup that led to the arrests of several relatives of the former dictator, Ne Win.

Diplomats reported the military government had dismissed the chiefs of the air force and the police, as well as regional army commander, seen as a first step in a wider purge of the armed forces.

The military government did not confirm the dismissals. But diplomats named those affected as air force commander in chief, Major General Myint Swe, Police Major General Soe Win and Brigadier General Chit Tan, commander of the northern Golden Triangle region of Burma, which borders with Laos and Thailand.

The sackings came in the wake of the arrests of four relatives of former strongman, Ne Win, led by son-in-law Aye Zaw Win, and his three sons, arrested at a Rangoon restaurant on Thursday allegedly while holding discussions with a former military commander.

No action has been taken against Ne Win, 90, or his daughter Sandar Win, who are being kept at the family's lakeside residence. But further investigations are expected into links related to the coup plot between the influential business woman, Sandar Win and her husband.

Deputy intelligence chief, Major General Kyaw Win, cited disappointment within Ne Win's family over fewer special privileges previously enjoyed, as the main reason for the coup plot.

While Major General Kyaw Win did not disclose any details of the sackings, he dismissed rumors of any discord within the three leading members of the ruling military government, General Than Shwe, General Muang Aye and Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt.

But diplomats remain skeptical over the military governments official reasons for the attempted coup plot. Further details may emerge in the days ahead. Newspapers were keenly sought after Sunday amid widespread surprise the powerful Ne Win family would be facing such moves by the military government.

Former strongman, Ne Win, one of several key military officers who led Burma to independence from Britain in the 1940s, took over power in 1962 and implemented an economic policy which effectively cut the country off from the outside world.

Ne Win retired in 1988, and Khin Nyunt, the military intelligence chief and a protege of the former dictator, had been viewed as protecting the family, even as Ne Win was viewed as maintaining substantial behind the scenes influence within the country.

But diplomats say Ne Win's political influence appears now in the decline, given his advanced age.

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