© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Myanmar’s junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who overthrew the elected government on February 1, 2021, leads an army parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2021. REUTERS / Stringer / File Photo

By Poppy McPherson and Wa Lone

(Reuters) – Myanmar’s military leader has ousted the chief of the air force, local media and four sources close to the armed forces said.

The sources told Reuters that 57-year-old Maung Maung Kyaw, a general with an elite military background, has been ousted from his post since 2018.

Two of the sources said he was replaced on Monday by Htun Aung, who had previously served as chief of staff in the Air Force.

There was no public announcement that Maung Maung Kyaw had been removed, and Reuters could not determine why junta chief Min Aung Hlaing had removed him.

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun did not respond to a request for comment on Maung Maung Kyaw’s removal. The spokesman was quoted by the local news agency Eleven Media as saying that Maung Maung Kyaw had retired after a four-year tenure.

Reuters was unable to contact Maung Maung Kyaw directly and requests for comment from the military received no response.

Since the February 1 coup last year, which overthrew an elected government, and during the protests that followed the coup, the air force has been used to move troops into Myanmar to suppress the opposition.

Witnesses say the Air Force was also used in bombing attacks that killed civilians. The junta has not commented on the allegations. It is said that it does not target civilians, only “terrorists”.

The junta that imprisoned ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and most of her allies calls opposition forces loyal to her deposed government “terrorists”.

According to the human rights organization Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 1,400 people have been killed in violence, including bombing, since the coup. The junta denies the reported number of victims.

Maung Maung Kyaw was the subject of a Reuters investigation last year https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-generals-families which found that his family members, including his son and nephew, were part of a boy. were generation of military families with business interests including supplying the armed forces.

Photos and posts on social media – showing parties at expensive places in Singapore and trips to Bangkok, London and Santorini – showed that his family members enjoyed a lifestyle that was out of reach for the vast majority of Burmese people.

Maung Maung Kyaw, who was sanctioned by the US for his role in the coup https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-politics-usa-sanctions-idUSKBN2AN01D, did not respond to questions Reuters sent its investigation ahead of publication to the military.

In the last few weeks the city of Loikaw has been bombed from the air https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/un-rights-envoy-urges-halt-attacks-myanmar-town-residents-trapped-2022- 01-10 in the eastern state of Kayah on the border with Thailand, where ethnic armed groups have joined forces with newly formed armed anti-coup organizations, has forced thousands of people to flee.

Opponents of the junta say Myanmar’s military suffered heavy losses during the fighting. The junta has not commented on reports that it has suffered heavy losses.

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