Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Myanmar: Coup in Yangon - Nyunt arrested


Prime Minister Khin Nyunt: A coup d'état may be in the making in Myanmar. For some hours, Thai military sources and foreigner secret services have been referring to a big crisis in top government ranks and to the arrest of Prime Minister Khin Nyunt. Authorities in Myanmar have released no official statement. Diplomatic sources in Rangoon refer to rumours that the premier was arrested as part of a crackdown on military officials faithful to General Maung Aye, "number two" of the military junta that rules the country with an iron fist. Eye witnesses say that the presence of soldiers outside military headquarters in the capital has increased.
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A coup d’état in the making?

Rangoon (AsiaNews/Agencies) -- A coup d'état may be in the making in Myanmar. For some hours, Thai military sources and foreigner secret services have been referring to a big crisis in top government ranks and to the arrest of Prime Minister Khin Nyunt.

"They're telling us that something's amiss in Myanmar and that it's quite a serious matter," said the Thai deputy military chief commander, adding that, "News has not been consistent: some say that Khin Nyunt has been removed from the position of prime minister, others that he has been put under house arrest or taken to jail."

Authorities in Myanmar have released no official statement. Diplomatic sources in Rangoon refer to rumours that the premier was arrested as part of a crackdown on military officials faithful to General Maung Aye, "number two" of the military junta that rules the country with an iron fist. Eye witnesses say that the presence of soldiers outside military headquarters in the capital has increased.

In recent months, diplomats and international observers have referred to a power struggle between Khin Nyunt, in some ways considered a moderate, and Than Shwe, chief commander of Burma’s military who has always held a hard line against any sort of concession to the opposition democratic party. While waiting to learn of Khin Nyunt's fate, the Thai government has declared that whatever has occurred in Myanmar remains a domestic matter of that country.

Asia Net 19/10/20044

2. Myanmar prime minister detained

Yangon, Myanmar, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Myanmar Prime Minister Khin Nyunt has been removed from office and is in military custody after a shake-up of the country's top generals, sources said Tuesday.

The move consolidates the position of hard-liners who oppose compromise with pro-democracy forces, government sources in Myanmar and Thailand said Tuesday.

The sources said General Khin Nyunt, who is regarded as a relative moderate in the junta-ruled nation, was placed under military detention Monday night.

In addition to his post as prime minister, Khin Nyunt also held the powerful post of chief of military intelligence. His removal was seen as a continuation of a purge of military intelligence officers that has been underway for at least two weeks. Several MI officers have been jailed on corruption charges.

Rumors of a "coup" against Khin Nyunt had been circulating for several days. They were given fresh credence Tuesday morning when Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters in the northern Thai town of Mae Sot that he had heard of rising "political tension" in Burma and that "some kind of change" was taking place in the government there.

Washington Times 19/10/2004


3. Myanmar Secret Military Regime Ousts PM

BANGKOK, Thailand Oct. 19, 2004 — Myanmar's secretive military regime has forced out its prime minister, the long-powerful Gen. Khin Nyunt, and placed him under house arrest on corruption charges, the leader of neighboring Thailand said Tuesday.

The removal of Khin Nyunt could tilt the balance of power within the junta toward harder-line generals and further delay the stalled reconciliation process with the opposition led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Khin Nyunt was removed from his position, but Myanmar has not yet made an official announcement," Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters.

Thaksin said he knew who would become Myanmar's next prime minister, but would not reveal the name until it is officially announced. But he said the next prime minister would come from the inner circle of Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the head of Myanmar's ruling junta.
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Thai government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair said Khin Nyunt had been placed under house arrest on corruption charges.

"We can confirm that Khin Nyunt has been removed from the position of prime minister and is being detained under house arrest," he told The Associated Press.

Thaksin's comments followed a day of rumors in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, that Khin Nyunt had been ousted and that soldiers had raided the headquarters of military intelligence, which he had long headed and was the source of his power. The rumors could not be independently confirmed.

Diplomats in Yangon, the Myanmar capital, said on condition of anonymity that there was a rumor that Khin Nyunt had been "taken out of circulation," but had no details. There was no sign of tanks or increased military presence, and any ouster would appear to have been an internal affair.

Khin Nyunt's removal would not affect relations between Thailand and Myanmar, which have had occasional tensions along their border, the Thai spokesman said.

Earlier, Thai Gen. Lertart Rattanatavanich told reporters in Mai Sot, a Thai town on the border with Myanmar, that Thai army reports indicated that the junta "is unhappy with Khin Nyunt and they want to remove him from his position."

Khin Nyunt had been in an awkward position since last month, when regular army soldiers raided a checkpoint dominated by military intelligence officers at Muse on the Myanmar-China border. Large quantities of gold, jade and currency were seized.

Some 105 intelligence, immigration, customs and police personnel were arrested, including at least three military intelligence colonels who remain in custody and are expected to be charged.

Khin Nyunt assumed the prime minister's post last year in what was seen as a demotion from the positions he had previously held in the ruling clique of generals, increasingly dominated in recent years by hard-liners.

In some aspects, Khin Nyunt is considered a moderate, though he never prevailed on other generals to strike a deal with the high-profile leader of the opposition, Suu Kyi, to restore democracy to the impoverished Southeast Asian country.

In the past year, Khin Nyunt promoted what he called a roadmap toward democracy in U.N.-brokered contacts between the government and Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy. The talks went nowhere, and critics accused the government of using stalling tactics to retain its monopoly on power.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962, when army commander Ne Win seized power. Pro-democracy protests led by Suu Kyi were bloodily suppressed in 1988, and Khin Nyunt was one of the younger generation of generals who assumed power.

Associated Press 19/10/2004