Burmese national convicted in US of conspiracy to assault a foreign official

Phyo Hein Htut faces up to five years in prison for his role in a plot to attack Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN.
By RFA Burmese
2023.07.27
Burmese national convicted in US of conspiracy to assault a foreign official Phyo Hein Htut, convicted of conspiracy to assault a foreign official, in an undated photo.
Ko Nay/Facebook

A Burmese national who took part in a plot to attack Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations has been convicted in the United States of conspiracy to assault a foreign official.

Phyo Hein Htut was found guilty on July 24 after an eight-day trial and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 14, 2024, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the southern district of New York said in a statement. He faces up to five years in prison. 

Phyo Hein Htut, who resides in New York, had volunteered to be on a security team for Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun. But he was secretly feeding information about the ambassador, the mission and its personnel to an arms dealer in Thailand who sold weapons to the Myanmar military as part of a plot to harm the ambassador, according to the statement. 

Kyaw Moe Tun has been a key critic of Myanmar’s military junta, which seized control of the Southeast Asia country from the elected civilian-led government in a February 2021 coup. 

He was appointed to his post before the coup. The junta has demanded that he step down as ambassador, but he has refused to do so.

From about February 2021 through early August, Phyo Hein Htut conspired to injure or kill the ambassador by accepting money from the arms dealer sent to him to hire attackers in an attempt to force Kay Moe Tun to step down from his post, the statement said.

“The fact that they tried to assassinate the courageous Myanmar ambassador who stood up for the people at the United Nations was the lack of rule of law and violence has reached outside of Myanmar to the U.S.,” said Kyaw Zaw, spokesman for the President’s Office of Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government.

Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations, has been a key critic of the military junta. Credit: Brendan McDermid/Reuters file photo
Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations, has been a key critic of the military junta. Credit: Brendan McDermid/Reuters file photo

Billy Ford, a program officer for the Burma team at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said the incident was a “clear indication that the Myanmar military is a criminal organization willing to do anything to sustain its power — even attempting to assassinate a sitting U.N. ambassador.”

“Since it illegally took power more than two years ago, the military has repeatedly committed crimes and atrocities, including air strikes on civilians and this assassination attempt, with impunity,” he said.  

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Radio Free Asia that the evidence against Phyo Hein Htut was overwhelming enough to result in a unanimous jury verdict against him. 

“His heinous efforts to organize an attack on U.S. soil against the U.N. ambassador deserves the maximum possible punishment as a deterrent to others who would think about undertaking such actions,” he said.

U.S. authorities revealed the plot to kill the ambassador on Aug. 6, 2021, after they arrested, Phyo Hein Htut, then 28, and Burmese national Ye Hein Zaw, then 20, who was said to have been an intermediary who sent money from an arms dealer in Thailand to bankroll the attack.

Authorities charged both men with conspiracy to assault and make a violent attack upon a foreign official.

In December 2021, Ye Hein Zaw pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy, RFA reported.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Matt Reed.

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