US prosecutors have charged two Myanmar citizens over an alleged plot to attack the Asian country’s UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun.
- Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun has been an outspoken critic of Myanmar’s military government
- Two Myanmar nationals plotted to attack him at his New York residence, prosecutors say
- If convicted, the pair face up to five years in US prison
The military seized control of Myanmar on February 1 after the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted, sparking months of national protests.
Audrey Strauss, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, said Phyo Hein Htut, 28, and Ye Hein Zaw, 20, had each been charged with one count of conspiracy to assault and make a violent attack upon a foreign official, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
“Phyo Hein Htut and Ye Hein Zaw plotted to seriously injure or kill Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations in a planned attack on a foreign official that was to take place on American soil,” Ms Strauss said.
Link to Thai arms dealer
In the alleged conspiracy, Phyo Hein Htut told FBI investigators that an arms dealer in Thailand had contacted him online and offered him money to hire attackers to hurt the ambassador and force him to step down.
If the ambassador did not step down, the arms dealer proposed that the attackers would kill him, according to the complaint.
Phyo Hein Htut and the arms dealer then agreed on a plan to tamper with the ambassador’s car to cause a crash.
Ye Hein Zaw contacted Phyo Hein Htut and made two money transfers totaling $US4,000 ($5,450) in late July, according to the complaint.
Phyo Hein Htut told the FBI he was supposed to receive an additional $US1,000 ($1,360) after the attack was completed.
A volunteer security guard at Myanmar’s UN mission told the FBI that Phyo Hein Htut had told him about the plan “to hire a hit man to kill or injure the ambassador.”
The complaint said Ye Hein Zaw admitted he transferred the money to Phyo Hein Htut and that he regularly sent money to others on behalf of the arms dealer.
He also recently booked travel to the US for two other people at the arms dealer’s request, the complaint added.
FBI acted on tip-off
Jacqueline Maguire, the acting assistant director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, said local law enforcement acted “quickly and diligently”, having learned of the potential assassination planned in Westchester County, north of New York City, where the ambassador lives.
The bureau received a tip-off on Tuesday, according to court documents.
The pair is in custody and will appear in a New York court to face charges, officials said.
Myanmar’s junta fired the ambassador in February, but he remains the country’s UN envoy because the United Nations has not acknowledged the junta.