Attempted Kidnapping in US Shows Shady Ties Between Myanmar and Thailand

The news that two Myanmar citizens were arrested in the US for allegedly plotting to kill or injure Myanmar’s UN ambassador has spread like wildfire throughout the country and abroad.
In a statement, US Attorney Audrey Strauss said that Phyo Hein Htut, 28, and Ye Hein Zaw, 20, plotted to seriously injure or kill Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations on American soil.
“We applaud the tireless efforts of our law enforcement partners at all levels of government to ensure foreign diplomats and officials’ safety,” she said.
In February after the coup, U Kyaw Moe Tun publicly opposed military rule in Myanmar at a UN meeting. The junta has since tried to replace the ambassador without success, since the UN has not acted on its request. He represents Myanmar’s National Unity Government, formed by lawmakers from the ousted government and ethnic minority representatives. The ambassador recently filed a complaint with the UN Secretary-General over an alleged massacre in upper Myanmar.
Before the arrest of the two men, U Kyaw Moe Tun told Reuters that the police were investigating a threat against him.
The police have provided the necessary security, he said earlier this week.
After that, the US Attorney’s statement on the arrest of the two Myanmar men came out.
According to the legal complaint, Phyo Hein Htut told FBI investigators that an arms dealer in Thailand had contacted him online offering him money to hire attackers to hurt the ambassador and force him to step down.
According to prosecutors, Ye Hein Zaw transferred $4,000 to Phyo Hein Htut.
US Attorneys allege that Phyo Hein Htut hired attackers who told Ye Hein Zaw, in a recorded telephone call, that for an additional fee the attackers could “finish off” Ambassador Ye Hein Zaw.
According to the complaint, if the ambassador did not step down, the arms dealer suggested that the attackers would kill him. Phyo Hein Htut and the arms dealer agreed to cause a crash by tampering with the ambassador’s car.
In a court filing, Phyo Hein Htut is accused of having agreed with the Thai arms dealer to “hire others to tamper with the tires on the Ambassador’s car in order to cause a crash.”
Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun, who opposed the military coup in Myanmar, was asked to leave his post and residence by the military regime, but he refused. Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun has become a well-known target for the regime since then.
There is evidence that the regime’s networks operating outside of Myanmar are involved, and the plot is interesting but poorly planned.
Phyo Hein Htut appears to have contacts in the ambassador’s office and is well-known to arms dealers in Thailand.
Ye Hein Zaw admitted to the complaint that he arranged the money transfer to Phyo Hein Htut and that he regularly sent money to others on behalf of the arms dealer and recently arranged travel for two other people to the United States at the dealer’s request.
What is the name of the arms dealer in Thailand? Is he a Thai or Myanmar national? He is likely to be a Myanmar citizen.
Thailand is home to many prominent and shady Myanmar businessmen who are close to the regime.
They have opened up businesses and trading companies, bought homes and live in Bangkok. Myanmar businessmen in Bangkok have become increasingly active since the coup because they support the military and have close ties with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, coup leader and chairman of the State Administration Council (SAC).
In addition, they have extensive networks along their border with Myanmar, which are used to export goods, construction materials, liquor, automobiles, and arms to Myanmar.
There have been several mysterious disappearances and killings of Myanmar and ethnic leaders and opposition members in exile.
Myanmar has seen state-sponsored assassinations of prominent politicians in the past. In May 2003, the junta organized thugs to ambush then opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s campaign convoy in Sagaing Region’s Depayin township.
The plot was approved by the highest command in the regime and involved regional commanders, police officers, and prominent members of the regime’s mass association known as the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA). Thousands of people were brought to a remote rural location in Myanmar and the attackers were all well-armed and located strategically at two killing sites.
Several people were killed. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and some politicians escaped from the mayhem but subsequently were detained by the regime. Outraged to learn of the killings and planned attack, the UN, US, and Myanmar’s neighbors expressed concern over the state-sponsored murders and condemned the regime.
In February 2008, a prominent Karen leader, Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, a senior leader of the Karen National Union, was gunned down by two Karen men at his home in Mae Sot, Thailand.
It is widely believed that he was killed on the orders of the Myanmar military regime. Known as Padoh Mahn Sha, he was the Karen leader who was capable of uniting the country’s divided armed groups into a coherent political force.
In January 2017, U Ko Ni, legal adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was killed in broad daylight at Yangon International Airport.
A hired gunman and several former military officers were involved in the killing of the prominent lawyer and member of the National League for Democracy (NLD).
In 2019, hired gunman Kyi Lin, who shot U Ko Ni, and ex-lieutenant Aung Win Zaw, who accompanied Kyi Lin, were sentenced to death.
However, the alleged mastermind of the killing, former Lieutenant-Colonel Aung Win Khaing, remains at large after fleeing. With the coup in February, Aung Win Khaing is assumed to be safe.
The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) which was formed in exile across the Thai border in December 1990, suffered from disappearances and murders.
Two of its ministers, U Win Ko and U Hla Pe, disappeared separately in 1992 and were found murdered the next year.
U Hla Pe was murdered in Bangkok under mysterious circumstances. U Win Ko, who was finance minister of the NCGUB, was found murdered in a hotel room in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China. No one has claimed responsibility for the deaths.
When the previous regime known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) was in power, the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok was active in monitoring the activities of Myanmar opposition figures in Bangkok and ethnic insurgents along the border.
In the past, military attachés and informants were active in gathering intelligence and engaged in several illegal activities. For instance, Colonel Thein Swe, an air force officer and intelligence officer posted in the 1990s, was known to have worked with Thai networks and thugs in Bangkok to disturb exiled activists and opposition offices in Thailand. Myanmar’s most feared spy chief Lt Gen Khin Nyunt later promoted him to brigadier general and assigned him to run the regime’s propaganda mouthpiece the Myanmar Times, established in 2000.
Nevertheless, the full extent of the military and the regime’s business and criminal networks in Bangkok is unknown.
Several well-known and shady business tycoons connected to the military from Myanmar have also bought luxury condos and residences in Bangkok to live, retire and work. On weekends, they frequently appear at Bangkok’s golf resorts where they play golf with Myanmar diplomats and officials.
Myanmar tycoon and arms dealer Tay Za also bought residences in Bangkok and Singapore. He recently appeared in the news as Myanmar regime leaders bought military hardware and jet fighters from Russia.
The story of the assassination plot in New York should be treated seriously. Many at home and abroad have seen military troops shoot and kill hundreds of demonstrators on the streets since the coup in February and the regime’s snipers have targeted many innocent young people. But beyond the killing fields in Myanmar, it seems the regime is looking at its potential targets and enemies overseas.
With the arrest of two Myanmar citizens in New York, what is most disturbing is that Myanmar is following in the footsteps of the North Korean regime, engaging in political murders and assassinations abroad.
“These defendants planned a violent plot against an international leader on US soil, crossing national borders and oceans,” New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement.
The attorney general’s statement did not directly mention the junta led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing that overthrew Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, and that is already facing international criticism over the coup and the subsequent bloody crackdown. However, Friday’s arrests are sure to fuel speculation about whether the military was involved in the alleged plot against a senior diplomat.
On Saturday morning, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews wrote on social media that he was “horrified” to learn of the plot.
“Who is responsible for this outrage and who will hold them accountable?”?”
Because of the threat against Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, he is now under heightened security.

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