Myanmar’s military leader has removed the head of the air force, media and sources close to the armed forces said, after a series of deadly bombing raids to crush resistance that drew global condemnation.
Sources told the Reuters news agency that 57-year-old Maung Maung Kyaw, a general from an elite military background, had been replaced in the post he had held since 2018.
Two of the sources said Htun Aung, who had been the air force’s chief of staff, took over the position.
The change in personnel came as the military reportedly carried out on Thursday another air raid in Htigyaing, a town in the Sagaing region, according to the Kachin News Group. Armed residents in the town have reportedly been fighting with the military since Wednesday evening.
There was no public announcement that Maung Maung Kyaw had been removed and Reuters was unable to establish why military leader Min Aung Hlaing had removed him.
But the Eleven Myanmar news website quoted military spokesman General Zaw Min Tun as saying that Maung Maung Kyaw had “completed his service”.
“According to our military protocol, he (General Maung Maung Kyaw) will remain as SAC member. His chief of staff has become Commander-in-Chief (Air). It was just like the way Admiral Moe Aung became Commander-in-Chief (Navy) after his predecessor Admiral Tin Aung San ended his service of duty,” the spokesman said.
Since the military seized power in a coup on February 1 last year triggering mass protests and a resistance movement, the air force has been used to ferry troops around Myanmar to quell opposition.
Witnesses say the air force has also been used for bombing raids that have killed civilians. The military has not commented on the allegations and says it does not go after civilians.
On Thursday, the Karen Information Center reported that military air attacks on Tuesday destroyed a hospital in the Dwe Lo township in Karen state.
The military, which has jailed elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and most of her allies, calls the opposition forces loyal to her deposed government “terrorists”.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a human rights group, says more than 1,400 people have been killed in violence since the coup, including those killed in bombing raids. The military disputes the reported number of casualties.
Partying in London and Santorini
Maung Maung Kyaw was the subject of a Reuters investigation last year that revealed his family members, including his son and nephew, were part of a young generation of military families with business interests that included supplying the armed forces.
Photos and postings on social media – showing parties at expensive venues in Singapore and trips to Bangkok, London and Santorini – showed his family members enjoying a lifestyle well beyond the reach of the vast majority of Burmese.
Gen. Maung Maung Kyaw has been relieved of his post as Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Air Force, and Lieutenant General Tun Aung has become new Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force. Lt-Gen Tun Aung has become a general, and the change took place yesterday. pic.twitter.com/HVK9Eq7bfS
— Defres360.com (@Defres360) January 11, 2022
Maung Maung Kyaw, who has had sanctions imposed on him by the United States over 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 in eastern Kayah state, bordering Thailand, where ethnic armed groups have joined forces with newly formed anti-coup organisations, has forced thousands of people to flee.
Opponents of the military say Myanmar’s army has sustained heavy losses during the fighting.
The military has not commented on the reports that it has suffered heavy losses.
Elsewhere, The Irrawaddy news website reported on Thursday that at least three residents of a village in the Sagaing region were killed by military troops during a raid on Monday.
Among the deaths was reportedly a person with a mental illness.
Images posted on social media by The Irrawaddy showed what looked like a burned human body. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the report.