Mon, Dec 20, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Military junta scraps its intelligence organization

AFP , YANGON, MYANMAR

The military junta has begun the complete dismantling of a military intelligence unit formerly headed by disgraced premier Khin Nyunt, former intelligence officials and diplomats said yesterday.

"Corporals or sergeants with more than 10 years service can get retirement, but servicemen with under 10 years service are being sent to the infantry," a former official, who did not want to be named, told reporters.

He said 2,000 of an estimated 10,000 military intelligence (MI) members were retired or transferred by the junta on Wednesday, adding the unit was expected to be completely dismantled by the end of the month.

The MI's main unit based in the capital Yangon was the first to go, with its senior members forced into retirement, he said.

"General Kyaw Win, deputy chief of military intelligence and another three high-ranking officials retired on Dec. 15."

Yangon-based diplomats confirmed the unit was being scrapped.

"Some members were detained after [former premier] Khin Nyunt's arrest but the rest are now being retired or transferred," a diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

"In the meantime the unit has already undergone a name-change to the Office of Military Affairs Security," he said.

The unit, which was headed for two decades by Khin Nyunt, had been at the center of a wide-ranging purge following his sacking and arrest in October on corruption charges.

The former premier -- who favored limited dialogue with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- was replaced by junta hardline General Soe Win.

The intelligence unit had been targeted by rivals loyal to the head of the junta, Senior General Than Shwe, over what they claimed was a nationwide anti-corruption campaign in the wake of Khin Nyunt's ousting.

In October the junta scrapped the National Intelligence Bureau, the body that gave widespread powers to MI officers.

The intelligence wing was believed to control much of the black market and drug money in Myanmar -- the world's second largest opium producer -- and is a bitter rival of hardline army factions loyal to the junta leadership.

Analysts said the unit had been "acting like the mafia" and using its elite status to collect substantial "unaccountable income."

MI corruption was believed to be particularly strong along the border areas, which deal with most imports from neighboring China, India and Thailand.

Myanmar is ranked among the top five most corrupt countries in the world in a global corruption index released by watchdog Transparency International.

Diplomats and analysts have stressed that the non-MI military faction is also deeply involved in corruption.

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