NAYPYITAW (Reuters) - On the ground, the military operation in Rakhine State has been overseen by Major General Maung Maung Soe, the chief of the army’s Western Command, one of 14 regional commands operating across Myanmar, said a military intelligence source and a senior army officer familiar with the operation.
The Western Command is overseen in turn by the Bureau of Special Operations in the capital city of Naypyitaw, which reports to the office of the Commander in Chief of the military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
The office of the Commander in Chief did not respond to detailed questions from Reuters about the Rakhine operation.
The Western Command is divided into three main divisions. One of these divisions, the 15 Light Infantry Division (15 LID), is stationed in the region of Buthidaung, next to the Maungdaw region where the “clearance operation” has taken place. The 15 LID has led the fighting, said the army officer and the military intelligence source.
That division is further broken down into 10 battalions, each with an estimated fighting force of about 400 soldiers.
Each of the battalions has four companies and one artillery section and is led by a commander in the rank of lieutenant colonel, the senior army source said. Each battalion also consists of units in charge of first aid, logistics, transportation, communications, engineering and construction.
The key groups leading the operation against the Rohingya have been battalions Nos. 352, 551, 564 and 345, the sources said. The senior army source said a little under 2,000 soldiers operated in the area.
A senior government source and the senior army source said the commander of 15 LID, Major General Khin Maung Soe, had been questioned by investigators conducting an internal military probe into alleged abuses.
The army did not respond to a question about Khin Maung Soe’s role and Reuters was unable to contact him directly.
The senior army source said military investigators have also questioned the general’s deputy and other soldiers with key responsibilities on the ground. The source cautioned that investigators were still gathering preliminary information and no charges have been brought against Khin Maung Soe and others.
Edited by Janet McBride, Peter Hirschberg and Richard Woods