US charges two in plot to attack Myanmar's anti-junta UN envoy

New York (AFP) –


US prosecutors said Friday they had charged two Myanmar citizens in a plot to attack the country's UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, an outspoken supporter of the democracy movement who has refused junta orders to quit.

In an alleged conspiracy foiled by US investigators, the pair spoke of hiring assailants to force Kyaw Moe Tun to resign or, if he refused, to kill him, officials said.

The pair "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," said Audrey Strauss, the US attorney for the southern district of New York.

Jacqueline Maguire, the acting assistant director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, said that law enforcement acted "quickly and diligently" after learning last month of the potential assassination that was planned in Westchester County, a suburban area north of New York City.

"Our laws apply to everyone in our country, and these men will now face the consequences of allegedly breaking those laws," she said.

Suspects Phyo Hein Htut, 28, and Ye Hein Zaw, 20, were being charged in a federal court in Westchester on counts for which they could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Prosecutors said Phyo Hein Htut had been in touch with an arms dealer in Thailand who has dealings with the military in Myanmar, which on February 1 overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Phyo Hein Htut and the arms dealer discussed hiring assailants, a criminal complaint said.

Ye Hein Zaw also discussed the plot and transferred $4,000 to Phyo Hein Htut through an app as advance payment for the hit, it said.

Kyaw Moe Tun -- who made headlines after the coup by flashing the three-finger salute of democracy protesters from his UN chair as Myanmar's representative -- had told AFP on Wednesday there was a threat against him and that he was being assigned additional security.

More than 900 people have died in Myanmar, earlier known as Burma, as the military seeks to crush protests against the coup, according to a local monitoring group.