Alternative Asean Network on Burma
campaigns, advocacy and capacity-building for human rights
About Us

SPDC Vice Chairman
Vice Senior General

Born: 25 December 1937
Wife: Mya Mya San
Children: One daughter

Maung Aye, the SPDC’s second in command, has a reputation for ruthlessness and xenophobia. Army sources have said Maung Aye wants to keep the army clear of politics. A behind the scenes power struggle between Maung Aye and Than Shwe fuels debate about the future of the SPDC.



In 1959, Maung Aye graduated from the Defense Service Academy. In 1968, he became commander of the Northeast Region. In 1988, he became commander of the Eastern Region. Two years later he was promoted to major-general. In 1992 he was made Army Chief. In 1993 he was named Lieutenant General and the Deputy Commander in Chief of Defense Services. In 1994 he was appointed Deputy Chairman of SLORC, and now holds the same position in the SPDC.

Ranks held

1968 – Commander of Northeast Region
unknown – Lieutenant colonel
1979 – Colonel
1988 – Brigadier General
1990 – Major General
1992 – Army Chief
1993 – Lieutenant General and Deputy Commander in Chief of Defense Services
1994 – SLORC Deputy Chairman


Reports of the power struggle between Maung Aye and Than Shwe are common, usually reflected in changes to the cabinet and appointments of SPDC regional commanders. Loyal factions to both men reportedly exist at all levels of the regime.

In 2005, he reportedly opposed to the SPDC’s move to Pyinmana.

Observers often consider Than Shwe’s moves as made to block or marginalize Maung Aye. Than Shwe reportedly failed to include or inform Maung Aye on the decision to hold the constitutional referendum in May 2008; Maung Aye learned of the announcement while golfing.

Maung Aye is believed to have been at loggerheads with ex-PM Khin Nyunt. A major crackdown on corruption along the border with China and the mass arrests of customs officials and civil servants at the border town of Muse was the first move by Maung Aye against Khin Nyunt, who was subsequently arrested and charged with corruption in 2004.


He is believed to have established strong ties with Burma's many drug lords in the Golden Triangle while operating as a colonel in the late 1970s and 80s. In Shan State, he forged close ties with influential businessmen such as Aung Ko Win, a.k.a. Sayar Kyaung, the chairman of Kanbawza Bank and the Billion Group.

Maung Aye has been a critic of excessive corruption and often at the forefront of any attempt to limit it.

In 2006, complaints from businessmen in Burma that increased corruption had brought imports and exports to a virtual standstill reportedly angered him.

Conflict with Tay Za

In 2006, sources reported that Tay Za was keeping an eye on Maung Aye, who had reportedly taken a dislike to him. In 2005, while serving as chairman of Burma's Trade Policy Council, Maung Aye instructed Finance and Revenue Minister to increase taxes on Tay Za-owned businesses.


Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly called Maung Aye the most charismatic of SPDC officials. His friendliness toward Daw Suu when the two last dined together was described as unusual.



Following the October 2004 purge of PM Khin Nyunt, Maung Aye was horrified to learn that the military was unaware of how many foreigners and international organizations were operating in the country, especially in Shan State. The revelation caused the military to begin to control international NGO activity and restrict UN operations.

Maung Aye reportedly holds a grudge against the Thai Third Army due to Thailand’s joint military exercises with the US, some of which were held along the border.

Hostile to ethnic groups

Maung Aye has generally been hostile toward the ethnic groups, particularly the Kachin and Karen. On 27 February 1997, during a televised surrender ceremony with a battalion of Karen resistance fighters, he walked on the Karen flag.


He has been reported to have been in poor health for several years and has been treated several times for prostate cancer. He is rumored to be a hard drinker.


Maung Aye is tipped to take over the junta if Than Shwe steps down. But some speculate that he will meet the same fate as Khin Nyunt and that General Thura Shwe Mann would become Army chief and SPDC deputy chairman.

Observers speculate that Maung Aye and other top ranking generals oppose the USDA’s possible role in a future government, which would marginalize the military.