A Family at War: Myanmar ’s Power Struggle and Purge

Myanmar ’s Politics

Since 1989 Myanmar has been ruled by the military junta initially named SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) and then renamed in 1992 as the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council).  The isolation imposed by the regime and the outside world has resulted in a scarcity of information on the government.  The SPDC is hypothesized as a central committee that controls various administrative aspects of the country. (see figure1)  It consists of core officers that control the Department of Defense, civilian cabinet, and intelligence agencies.  Senior General Than Shwe is the Chairman of the SPDC and directly controls the Ministry of Defense.  Deputy Senior General Muang Aye is the Vice Chairman and Commander in Chief of the Military.  Lt. General Khin Nyunt was (prior to October 2004) the Prime Minister of Myanmar and oversaw the civilian affairs via the cabinet and intelligence affairs via the OCMI (Office of the Chief of Military Intelligence). The remainder of the SPDC cabinet contains the Tri-service command and chiefs of Bureau of Special Operations.

Lt. General Khin Nyunt despite his third most senior position was considered to be the most powerful man in the regime’s hierarchy.  The various positions allowed him to liaison with influential international personalities and control the powerful intelligence apparatus responsible for internal and external espionage.[i]  Lt. General Khin Nyunt’s rise to power paralleled the restructuring of Myanmar ’s intelligence services.  In 1983, the North Korean terrorist bombing attempted to assassinate the South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan.  The attack resulted in the dead of 21 people including members of the South Korean cabinet.  The attack proved to be a major embarrassment for the U Ne Win regime and it severed diplomatic ties with North Korea .[ii]  Subsequent investigation of the attack resulted in an intelligence revamp. 


Figure 1: Schematic of the SPDC

The National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) became the central intelligence body.  It was given control over Bureau of Special Investigation, Criminal Investigation Department, Special Investigation Department and Military Intelligence.  Some of these branches were previously located within the Home Ministry.  Additionally the newly formed DDSI was formed but its exact purpose is not known. Khin Nyunt was tasked as the Chief of Intelligence in the revamping by General Ne Win.[iii]  Khin Nyunt’s profile continued to ascend with the burgeoning intelligence apparatus.

Over the past two decades, Myanmar ’s intelligence services have expanded in size and power (see figure 2).  The Directorate of Defense Services Intelligence (DDSI), technically a part of the NIB, became the most powerful intelligence body. The DDSI provided agents to the NIB, which was delegated to reporting to the SPDC.  The DDSI initially had 14 subdivisions but by 2002 had grown to over 40 subdivisions. In 1992, the DDSI was tasked to report directly to the intelligence chief instead of the regional commanders setting up the military - intelligence divide.  The intelligence apparatus also spawned a think tank named Office of Strategic Studies (OSS).  The cadre of the OSS was drawn from the highest achieving DDSI members.  The OSS was subdivided into five divisions and provided an academic environment as well a sophisticated public image that served as link with regional organizations.  The large intelligence apparatus was reorganized in 2002 into the Office of Chief of Military Intelligence (OCMI) which became the main intelligence agency in Myanmar .  Lt. General Khin Nyunt headed the newly formed OCMI and the major subdivision NIB, DDSI, and the OSS .[iv] [v] 



Figure 2: The organization of the OCMI

Power struggle

Deputy Senior General Muang Aye and his arch rival Lt. General Khin Nyunt were known to be locked in a power struggle for several years.  According to many reports the two had very different personalities and work habits. Lt General Khin Nyunt is a product of the Officer Training School (OTS) and considered to be more cosmopolitan with workaholic tendencies. He is rumored to be a “moderate” in the SPDC regime.[vi] On the other hand, Deputy Senior General Muang Aye dubbed a “hardliner” graduated from the Defense Service Academy and rose thru the ranks of the army to the current position.[vii] The two were reported to be involved in a power struggle for the better part of the last decade.  Rumors of a power struggle first reached public attention in 1998 after an unsuccessful assassination of Lt General Tin Oo.  Tin Oo, then Secretary 2 within the SPDC, was a Muang Aye supporter. The assassination attempt was largely blamed on dissident groups operating out of Japan .  However, later reports suggested that it might have been a diversion and that the culprits were within Myanmar .[viii]  Rumors of a power struggle were further fueled in 2001 when Lt General Tin Oo and Major General Sit Muang (also a supporter of Muang Aye & groomed for a potential leadership position in the SPDC) were killed along with several other officers and servicemen in a helicopter crash.[ix]  After the death of Tin Oo, Lt General Win Myint, Secretary 3 and supporter of Lt General Khin Nyunt, took over the duties without official tasking.  He was also considered next in line for the job.[x]  The position was officially left vacant for two years and filled in 2003 by Lt General Soe Win who was later promoted to Secretary 1 in the wake of Khin Nyunt’s promotion as Prime Minister and replaced him as Prime Minister in October 2004.[xi]

General Ne Win thru his charisma led a cult of personality and is responsible for placing many the SPDC leaders in positions of power.  Senior General Than Shwe and Lt General Khin Nyunt were both picked to lead.[xii] Lt General Khin Nyunt was known to have very close ties to Ne Win and his family members. Shortly before his death, Ne Win’s influence declined significantly due to health reasons, corruption charges raised against his family and an alleged coup attempt.  The loss of Ne Win, affected the regime disproportionately and hurt Khin Nyunt within the junta.  After the discovery of the attempted coup plot by Ne Win’s family, Khin Nyunt was told to end his association with them.[xiii]  Lt General Khin Nyunt was speculated to be involved in the coup attempt and his public disappearance at the time of the revelations further stoked rumors.[xiv] 

The power struggle extended beyond Muang Aye and Khin Nyunt, it was a manifestation of institutional rivalry.  The much publicized power struggle between Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and Deputy Senior General Muang Aye is a representation of the friction between the armed forces and intelligence sections of Myanmar ’s security forces.  While the exact origin of the power struggle is not known, it is possible that the reorganization which removed the intelligence officers from scrutiny of the army  lead to friction between the more senior army officers and junior ranking intelligence officers.  Additionally, intelligence officers would carry out investigations of army units.  This further deepened the suspicion between the two factions.[xv]   In 2001, shortly after Lt General Tin Oo’s death reports surfaced about a downsizing of the Office of Strategic Studies, the “think tank” of the government and part of the intelligence apparatus.  It was reported that many of the OSS officers were reassigned to other positions.[xvi]   Another significant but largely over looked event was reshuffle of the cabinet prior to the removal of Khin Nyunt.  In September 2004, several cabinet ministers with ties to Khin Nyunt were retired.  The most notable was the retirement of Foreign Minister U Wing Aung and his assistant.  It was stated that Minister U Wing Aung, was a former intelligence officer with a long distinguished foreign service career and closely tied to Khin Nyunt.  The positions were filled with two individuals with little foreign policy experience.  U Nyan Win, Foreign Minister, was a commandant at Defense Staff College and the U Muang Myint, deputy Foreign Minister, hailed from the Light Infantry.[xvii] [xviii] In addition, other replacements after the removal of Khin Nyunt seem to indicate that the power struggle is between the military and intelligence branches of the government.  The position of Prime Minister, Secretary 1, Secretary 2 and the bulk of the regional commanders are now held by graduates of Defense Services Academy (DSA).[xix] Deputy Senior General Muang Aye is the member of the first graduating class of DSA.[xx]

The Removal of Khin Nyunt and the Purge

The precise events leading up to the retirement of Prime Minister Khin Nyunt are unclear.  However, by examining media reports and official reports the last days of Khin Nyunt in power can be pieced together.  In September 2004 revelations occurred about the corruption within the OCMI.  It was discovered that members of the Ministry of Immigration and Customs department within the OCMI at Muse outpost on the Chinese border was involved in the smuggling of gold, jade and money.  The Auditor General dispatched by SPDC confirmed the report and 186 members of the OCMI were arrested.[xxi]  At the time of the revelations, Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was in Singapore accompanied by his wife and four ministers (Foreign Affairs, Industry and Commerce, Finance and Revenue) and Deputy Foreign Affairs. [xxii] Upon return to Yangon , he was greeted by the members of the SPDC and the Foreign Minister and Deputy Foreign Minister are retired and the Minister of Commerce was reassigned.[xxiii]

The period between September 17, 2005 and October 19, 2005 was characterized by a reshuffling of the cabinet members. In the days prior to the October 19, 2005 , Prime Minister Khin Nyunt continued his frenetic pace of activity.  On October 17th and 18th, there were no reports of Khin Nyunt’s whereabouts and was presumed to be in Mandalay , the last known location.  On October 18th, the OCMI was raided by the army and the next day, the retirement of Khin Nyunt was officially announced by the government.[xxiv] [xxv]  Khin Nyunt’s family was detained, additionally Bagan Cybertech , Myanmar ’s largest internet service, was taken over by government troops.[xxvi]  While the international media and politicians focused on the retirement of Khin Nyunt and dim prospects of political reform, the government continued the purge and reshuffled the cabinet.[xxvii]  A significant number of ministers were replaced by regional commanders, some with close ties to Senior General Muang Aye.[xxviii]

List of Recently Transferred or Retired Ministers


Position Situation

U Win Aung

Foreign Minister


U Khin Maung Win

Deputy Foreign Minister


Maj Gen Hla Myint Swe

Transport Minister


Maj Gen Nyunt Tin

Agriculture & Irrigation Minister


Maj Gen Pyi Sone

Commerce Minister

Transferred to PM office

U Tin Win

Labor Minister

Transferred to PM office

Colonel Tin Hlaing

Home Minister


Brig-Gen Aung Thein

Deputy Minister Livestock & Fisheries


Nyi Hla Nge

Deputy Minister Science & Technology


Brig-Gen Khin Maung

Deputy Minister Agriculture & Irrigation


Brig-Gen Kyaw Win

Deputy Minister Industry


Abolishing the NIB

“The SPDC, which is striving to establish a modern, disciplined and democratic nation in line with the changing times, in the interest of the people, the security and the tranquility of the country, has found that the NIB [National Intelligence Bureau] law is no longer practicable.”[xxix]  

The removal of Khin Nyunt did not end the remodeling of Myanmar ’s bureaucracy.  The SPDC has since continued to remove those loyal to Khin Nyunt, deconstruct the influence of his intelligence organizations and remove those suspected of corruption. The Junta released many prisoners, the number ranging from a few thousand to nine thousand.[xxx]  Among those released were several notable political prisoners and others held illegally. Charges of corruption were filed against senior OCMI staffers, currently many have been found guilty and are awaiting sentencing.[xxxi] Khin Nyunt has not stood trial but government statements imply that he was held accountable for the corruption by his removal and businesses owned by his family have been closed or taken over.[xxxii]

In October 2004, Myanmar ’s junta arrested almost all of the various department heads in the OCMI and their deputies.  It is rumored that Brig General Aung Zaw, head of the Administration department was killed in detention. Two notable exceptions in the saga of detention and interrogation are Brig-Gen Kyaw Thein, head of ethnic nationalities and ceasefire groups, drugs suppression, head of and Naval and Air intelligence, the other is Maj-Gen Kyaw Win Deputy Chief of OCMI.[xxxiii]  Some OCMI staffers who had retired were also arrested along with influential family members while others have been transferred to infantry battalions or retired. Additionally, family members of influential intelligence officers in military school have been expelled.[xxxiv] 

Businesses owned by relatives of intelligence officers have been closed or confiscated by the government.  Notable among the list of businesses involved is Myanmar Times.[xxxv]  Since its inception the Myanmar Times bypassed the tight controls set by Ministry of Information for Myanmar ’s newspapers.  This point was boasted by the OCMI members, the newspaper was designed to set it apart from others and to put forth the specific views of the OCMI instead of the government.[xxxvi] Coincidentally, the CEO of this controversial newspaper is “Sonny” Myant Swe, son of Thein Swe, the now arrested former head of International Relations department of OCMI.[xxxvii]


Position Situation

Brig-Gen Kyaw Thein

Head of Ethnic Nationalities & Ceasefires, Drug Suppression


Maj-Gen Kyaw Win

Deputy Chief of OCMI


Brig Gen Thein Swe

Head of International Relations

Arrested despite retirement

Brig-Gen Hla Aung

Head of Training


Brig-Gen Kyaw Han Head of Science & Technology


Brig-Gen Than Htun Head of Politics & Counter Intelligence


Brig-Gen Myint Zaw Head of Border Security and Intelligence


Brig Gen Aung Zaw Head of Administration Department

? Killed in custody

Current Leadership

Since the removal of Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, the media has focused on the remainder of Myanmar ’s leadership.  Senior General Than Shwe has emerged in the spotlight along with the senior SPDC members.  Senior General Than Shwe is a 72 year old veteran of the psychological warfare division of the Tatmadaw in the Shan and Karen engagements and also stationed in Southwest Myanmar .  He rose to prominence reaching the rank of Chief of the Army during the Ne Win era and was later encouraged to form the SLORC government.  During the 1990’s he is known to have deeply influenced the current senior members of SPDC with secret cabinet meetings that determined future policy. It is believed that the current purge surrounding Khin Nyunt is the handiwork of Than Shwe rather than Deputy Senior General Muang Aye. Previously portrayed as an aging lackluster brooding dictator, the media portrays him as a savvy politician able to interact with Myanmar ’s neighbors and strong links to national tycoons. Additionally despite widely held speculation of slowly losing grip on power to younger generals, he has now significantly consolidated power after the removal of Khin Nyunt and the all pervasive intelligence organizations. [xxxviii] [xxxix]

Lt General Soe Win replaced Khin Nyunt as Prime Minister of Myanmar.  Prime Minister Soe Win has a background that is significantly different from Khin Nyunt, he is predominately a military commander with previous postings in Karen and Chin State .  He was then appointed to North West Command and first appointed to the SPDC in 2001 as Air Defense General.  He gradually rose thru the ranks taking over Lt General Tin Oo’s long vacant position as Secretary 2.  In 2003 he was promoted to Secretary 1 as Khin Nyunt was appointed Prime Minister.  He is reported to be a “hardliner” with his role in the 1988 crackdown against democracy protestors and alleged to be the involved in the Depyin attack on NLD (National League of Democracy) and the arrest of Aung Sang Suu Kyi.  He is reported to be a close associate of SPDC Chairman Than Shwe and a member of the USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association) a civilian organization designed to support the military regime against the NLD.[xl]  

Lt General Thein Sein, Secretary 1 entered into SPDC in 2001 as replacement of then Secretary 3 Adjutant Gen Win Myint who was considered to be a Khin Nyunt supporter.  Currently, his duties allow participation in the National convention, reassuring restive minority groups about political reform and will honor negotiated ceasefires.[xli]  Lt General Thura Shwe Mann, Secretary 2 of the SPDC, regime is also a graduate of Defense Service Academy (DSA).  He has steadily advanced in the ranks of the Army and a veteran of the KNU insurgency.[xlii]  In 1997, he joined the SPDC as a regional commander and then promoted up to Triservice Command in 2001. He is the regime’s most vocal anti corruption member and has sounded off on corruption at the OCMI.[xliii]  Currently, the top five generals are soldiers with long history of insurgent engagements and are widely respected and trusted in the armed forces.  Almost all except Senior General Than Shwe are graduates of the DSA.  Overall, it seems to indicate that the top two generals in the junta have consolidated their power over the government.

International Reaction

“We will be having our own forum in the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] to convey our views to the new leadership of Myanmar .”

                                                - Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

ASEAN reacted with predicted surprise to the removal of Prime Minsiter Khin Nyunt.  Khin Nyunt held multiple portfolios and this afforded him extensive travel abroad and interaction with foreign diplomats in Myanmar .  Therefore, he was the primary source of ASEAN interaction with the Myanmar ’s regime.  The reaction over his removal ranged from concern over Khin Nyunt’s health to anger over stalled reforms.  The ASEAN meeting continued the trend with sharp criticism over the SPDC’s decision to extend Ang San Suu Kyi’s house arrest by one year. The People’s Republic of China issued a tepid reaction to the removal of Khin Nyunt and wished Myanmar stability in its reforms ahead.  India ’s reaction to the removal was muted and relations continued unabated with Sen General Than Shwe’s state visit, the first in 24 years.[xliv] [xlv] [xlvi]  

Several days after the removal of Khin Nyunt, the New Light of Myanmar announced that Senior General Than Shwe would visit India .  The visit came at a surprising time given internal upheavals and start of a purge.  Numerous reasons were cited ranging from bolstering ties to astrologic significance.  Regardless of the reasons, Senior General Than Shwe visit was significant as it included an entourage of Lt General Thein Sein, SPDC Secretary 1, several junior SPDC members, and eight cabinet ministers including Industry, Communications, External Affairs, Railways, and Science and Technology.  It was the first visit by Myanmar ’s head of state since President Ne Win several decades ago.[xlvii] [xlviii] An agreement on non traditional security was signed to curtail money laundering, cybercrime, organized crime and terrorism.[xlix]  High level visits continued with Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy in November 2004 that involved ceremonial and retreat spots.  However, several days after the visit, Tatmadaw struck NSCN camps in its territory.[l]  Most recently, Minister of External Affairs K Natwar Singh visited Myanmar to further bolster bilateral ties and gave importance to upcoming Tamanthi Hydel project and the Kaladan River bimodal transport system.[li]

China continued to maintain high level of interaction despite the removal of Khin Nyunt and his known pro China proclivity.  In September 2004, Chinese leadership met with Brigadier General Htay Oo, chief of the USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association). [lii] The USDA is considered the political organization of the SPDC formed as a reaction to the NLD.  The USDA and its chief are believed to be heavily patronized by Senior General Than Shwe.[liii]  Interestingly, several days after the landmark visit to India , the new Prime Minister Soe Win traveled to China as part of an ASEAN delegation.  His entourage included 55 delegates mostly involving economy and industry.[liv] [lv] Following quickly on Prime Minister Soe Win’s visit China sent Deputy Chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, General Ge Zhenfeng to sign an agreement on border defense and discuss management of border defense.  Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wu Dawei arrived on December 2004 on an official trip that was speculated to engage new members of the SPDC.[lvi]      

Summary and Analysis

Former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt’s windfall started with the unfortunate terrorist bombing of the South Korean delegation.  In the ensuing purge he was tasked to head the amalgam of various intelligence organizations.  Over time he expanded the role of intelligence organizations and rose to further prominence in the Ne Win administration.  In the post 1988 chaos, Ne Win encouraged Senior General Than Shwe to incorporate Lt General Khin Nyunt into the leadership of the newly formed SLORC.  In the evolution of the SLORC into the SPDC, Khin Nyunt was able to further his role by rerouting intelligence inputs directly to his office.  The supremacy of the DDSI (over the ceremonial NIB) and creation of the OCMI along with the OSS think tank further increased his influence in the regime.  It resulted in speculation that he would be the next leader of Myanmar either by choice or by power struggle.  These rumors were given further impetus in 2003 when he became Prime Minister.  The exact motivation for this move is not known.  One suspects that it was either a reflection of Khin Nyunt’s rising international stature.  He was able to successfully build a cult of personality around him and many considered the intelligence chief a “moderate” based on numerous interactions with foreign dignitaries and regular meeting with Ang Sang Suu Kyi in which he represented the SPDC. Another more cynical reason for his promotion as Prime Minister is that the regime wanted to distance him from the intelligence organization thru which he wielded much of his power.   

The infamous power struggle touted by the media while between Deputy Senior General Muang Aye and Lt General Khin Nyunt was between the two factions of the government.  The earliest cause can be traced back to 1992 revamping in which intelligence officers reported directly to DDSI instead of higher ranking army commanders.  In this situation, the intelligence officers became insolent towards their superiors and were able to report on them.  It is possible the rivalry may have even been present in the Ne Win era after the restructuring of intelligence apparatus.  The expansion of the OCMI and the running of a nearly parallel institution including its own newspaper only fueled the rivalry.  Over time the rivalry waxed and waned.  The death of Tin Oo and Sit Muang, supporters of Deputy Senior General Muang Aye and the tasking of Win Myint, Khin Nyunt associate and then Secretary 3 to Tin Oo’s task cast a suspicious shadow.  The power struggle was also cast along ideological lines of moderates Vs hardliners.  It is simplistic bordering on erroneous to term a power struggle in these terms.   The intelligence faction is responsible for internal espionage and detention of suspected “subversives” much of which is directed against NLD and other pro democracy groups.  It would be sufficient to state the nearly all of Myanmar ’s generals would not want to share power or share only in very favorable terms.  Additionally, a consolidation of power in the hands of the army instead of the intelligence service does not mean that reforms are less likely or more likely to occur. 

The casus belli of recent events seems to be the discovery of corruption at the Muse checkpoint.  It is hardly surprising that the intelligence apparatus would not be involved in corruption given the depth of involvement in the government and ownership of numerous businesses.  Nonetheless, perhaps the discovery pointed to a deeper and more widespread occurrence that finally forced the regime to act decisively against the OCMI.  The events from September 17, 2004 to October 19, 2004 seem to indicate that there might have been attempts to reach a settlement.  Khin Nyunt arrived from Singapore with several ministers. U Win Aung and his deputy were immediately relieved of duty and several others who accompanied the former Prime Minister were either retired or relocated.  Over the next month, a series of transfers occurred and their replacements interestingly enough were “loyal” army commanders.  Allegedly a heated argument occurred between Khin Nyunt and Than Shwe over resignation from the OCMI.  Khin Nyunt refusal may have directly led to his dismissal.  Later it was noted by several prominent members in the government that the former Prime Minister had to be held accountable for actions within his department.

The government has gone beyond the removal of Khin Nyunt, it seeks to deconstruct the cult of personality built around him by removing many of his achievements.  The announcement of Khin Nyunt’s retirement for health reasons, resulted in criticism of the junta for contriving careless excuses that seemed unbelievable.  However, its actions with regards to the OCMI were precise if not lethal.  Army troops raided the OMCI headquarters and netted nearly all of the main department heads.  Many of them are in custody and some have been tried, some like Brig General Thein Swe were brought out of retirement and then held accountable.  It is interest to note that both the Deputy Director and Head of Ethnic affairs and ceasefire have been retired.  It seems that the government while interested in taking apart the OCMI is not willing to undo some of its contributions. In fact, the SPDC has taken numerous steps to comfort restive minorities.  Many of the ceasefires were engineered by Khin Nyunt and he headed the Constitutional convention consisting of prominent ethnic leaders during his removal.  The junta in a bid to calm fears of backtracking on previous agreements sent Prime Minster Soe Win and other SPDC members to discuss issues with various ethnic groups.  In the purge, the NIB formed at the time of the last purge was disbanded and the remnant of the much downsized OCMI is allowed to exist.  The local control of intelligence has now reverted back to regional commanders.    They have removed or transferred cabinet members who might have similar sympathies.

The diaspora's reactions over the removal of Khin Nyunt ranged from anger to happiness.  Many were angry at the loss of a reformer and feared a more hard-line tone against the Ang Sang Suu Kyi, NLD and even ethnic minorities.  Other opinions in the press expressed happiness at the removal of the intelligence chief and stated prematurely that this was the beginning of the end of the junta.  International reactions were more balanced.  India and China wished Myanmar stability and hoped that reforms and transition would continue at their pace.  ASEAN, a patchwork collection of Myanmar ’s neighbors, expressed a multitude of reactions.  Many of them echoed the above quote of Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  The quote and the thoughts behind it are incorrect.  Myanmar does not have a new government, it has a new administration, the top two leadership positions have not changed hands.  Many in ASEAN issued strong statements against the removal, despite the infamous ASEAN way of “non interference”.  It seems ASEAN has bought into Khin Nyunt persona of a moderate - reformer in a hard-line regime.  ASEAN’s preference in Myanmar ’s longstanding power struggle remains exposed by its comments over the removal of Khin Nyunt.  Several countries likely had successful business dealing with either Khin Nyunt or his organizations.  A well known one is Bagan Cybertech’s dealing with Shinawatra Satellite Plc.  The recent ASEAN meeting demonstrated the group’s anger at Myanmar and its lack of democratic reforms.  Interestingly Thailand threatened to walk out if its internal issues were discussed and Malaysia and Indonesia hardly have stellar democratic credentials.  Yet, ASEAN leaders have threatened to kick out Myanmar over sins committed by other members. 

The initial report of the removal of Khin Nyunt speculated on possible changes in Myanmar ’s foreign policy given his pro-China leanings.  It is unlikely that foreign policy played a role in the removal.  Regardless of the top leadership’s view of China , Myanmar cannot simply walk away from 15 years of strong engagement spanning economic, military and political aspects.  The change, if any, in foreign policy will be in subtle degrees rather than a major mid course correction.  China however continues to engage the junta.  Economic issues of widening the Irrawaddy , border security and political issues continue to be discussed.  Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Dawei was dispatched to Myanmar to evaluate the new administration. India continues to engage Myanmar ’s leadership, the landmark visit by Senior General Than Shwe after the removal of Khin Nyunt and signed a non traditional security agreement.  India has followed up the momentum of the state visit with military ties and discussion of mutual political issues and economic projects.  It can be hypothesized that ties between Myanmar and India will continue to improve and deepen.  Myanmar will continue to position itself in between both India and China for maximum benefit. 

The long awaited power play in Myanmar between Deputy Senior General Muang Aye and Lt General Khin Nyunt has been overtaken by recent events and turned on its head.  The original prediction was that as Senior General Than Shwe aged, he would lose grip on power resulting in a tensing of the relations between the two potential leaders.  However the events of October 2004, the struggle has been between Senior General Than Shwe’s reassertion of control over the government and the removal of Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and the intelligence faction challenge.  In short this was a power play between cousins in military and intelligence factions.  The army commanders and their loyalists seem to hold the major positions in the new administration.  The threat from the intelligence factions has been reduced by the recent purge. This, however, does not mean that the government will not be subject to further upheavals.  Transfer of power in military government is rarely if ever smooth and the future of Myanmar is uncertain both externally and internally.  Externally, it must deal with ASEAN’s threats and Western sanctions. Internally, Myanmar faces the task of co-opting ethnic minorities and dissident political groups into nation rather than a country.  Myanmar ’s purge is the start of a long road of reform involving intelligence services, interaction with other ethnicities, and the international arena.  

To our distant relatives and extended families, the ones who first teach us about power plays and politics
References and Footnotes  http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/SRR/Volume13/bahroo.html#9