8 December 2009:

A source close to Naypyidaw has claimed that Burma’s military dictator Senior General Than Shwe will soon retire to make ways for a new interim authority that will run the administrative machinery in the transitional period leading up to the 2010 elections.

At the top of likely candidates to succeed Than Shwe are Lt. General Hla Htay Win, former commander of Rangoon Divisional Command and Maj-Gen Tin Ngwe, commander of Central Command (Mandalay Division), according to the source.

The source claims that along with Sr Gen Than Shwe, a mandatory retirement will be in effect for all senior military officials who are over the age of 60 years. If true, this will eliminate some of the most senior officials from the army hierarchy.

The decision was said to have been taken during the closed-door meeting of top army brass late last month in the remote capital of Naypyidaw. Information pertaining to that meeting remains a closely-guarded secret, although many analysts believed the planned elections next year might likely have dominated the discussion.

Retired army officials, according to the military-backed constitution approved in a widely discredited referendum last year, will be eligible to run for elected office in next year’s elections.

The scenario of a new interim administrative authority being installed in place of Than Shwe’s State Peace and Development Council raises important questions: Will the recent international efforts at bridging communication between the military regime and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi be in jeopardy or is there a possibility a political dialogue still might take place?

This is not the first time the military dictator’s retirement has been rumored. In 2005, Than Shwe was reportedly forced to retire by his deputy General Maung Aye on account of nepotism and corruption. But it was later proven untrue as Than Shwe has remained the undisputed leader of Burma’s military junta in the ensuing years, up to this point.