By Poppy McPherson and Wa Lone
(Reuters) – Myanmar’s military chief ousted the air force chief, local media and four sources close to the armed forces said, replacing one of the most senior figures in a junta that led bombardments in an attempt to crush the resistance.
The sources told Reuters that Maung Maung Kyaw, 57, a general from the military elite, had been ousted from the post he had held since 2018.
Two of the sources said he was replaced on Monday by Htun Aung, who was the Air Force chief of staff.
There has been no public announcement that Maung Maung Kyaw has been dismissed from his post and Reuters has not been able to establish why junta leader Min Aung Hlaing removed him from his post.
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Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun did not respond to a request for comment on whether Maung Maung Kyaw had been removed from office. The spokesperson was quoted by local outlet Eleven Media as saying that Maung Maung Kyaw had terminated his post after a four-year term.
Reuters was unable to contact Maung Maung Kyaw directly, and requests for comment through the military were unanswered.
Since the February 1 coup of last year in which an elected government was toppled, and during the protests that followed the coup, the air force has been used to transport troops around Myanmar to suppress the opposition.
Witnesses say the air force was also used in bombings that killed civilians. The junta did not comment on the allegations. He says he is not targeting civilians, only “terrorists”.
The junta, which imprisoned ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and most of her allies, calls opposition forces loyal to her ousted government “terrorists.”
The Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, a human rights group, says more than 1,400 people have been killed in violence since the coup, including those killed in bomb raids. The junta disputes the number of victims reported.
Maung Maung Kyaw was the subject of a Reuters investigation https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-generals-families last year which revealed that members of his family, including including his son and nephew, were part of a younger generation of military families with business interests, including supplying the armed forces.
Photos and social media posts – showing parties at expensive venues in Singapore and trips to Bangkok, London and Santorini – showed her family members enjoying a lifestyle out of reach for the vast majority of Burmese.
Maung Maung Kyaw, who has been sanctioned by the United States https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-politics-usa-sanctions-idUSKBN2AN01D for his role in the coup, did not respond to questions Reuters sent to the military before the publication of its investigation.
In recent weeks, aerial bombardment of the town of Loikaw https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/un-rights-envoy-urges-halt-attacks-myanmar-town-residents-trapped-2022-01 -10 in eastern Kayah state, bordering Thailand, where armed ethnic groups joined forces with newly formed anti-coup armed organizations, forced thousands to flee .
Opponents of the junta say the Burmese army suffered heavy losses during the fighting. The junta did not comment on reports that it suffered heavy losses.
(Reporting by Poppy McPherson and Wa Lone; Additional reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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