Top election official in Myanmar assassinated by guerrillas

BANGKOK (AP) — A senior election official in Myanmar was fatally shot in his car in Yangon, the country’s commercial capital, in the latest attack attributed to militants opposed to military rule.

Sai Kyaw Thu, deputy director-general of the military-installed Union Electoral Commission, was shot multiple times on Saturday, according to the military information office, media reports and a statement of responsibility by an urban guerrilla.

Many opposition forces, including local People’s Defense Forces groups, operate independently of the government of national unity, but the military labels them all “terrorists”.

A resistance group calling itself For The Yangon said it carried out the attack on Sai Kyaw Thu, a former lieutenant colonel. She declared, “Mission: Accomplished,” in a Facebook post Saturday night illustrated with three photos of her goal.

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Sai Kyaw Thu is believed to be the senior Electoral Commission official to be shot dead since the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, 2021.

Earlier this year, resistance groups attempted to disrupt preparations for a snap election that the military had promised by attacking employees conducting a population poll that could be used to compile voter rolls and other low-level poll workers. Plans for the elections, a date never set, were postponed indefinitely in February when the military government announced it would extend the state of emergency over security concerns.

Urban guerrillas have committed many targeted killings, arson attacks, and small-scale bombings. The victims included military officials and members and their cronies, as well as people believed to have been informants or collaborators with the military.

In November 2021, a former naval officer who was the chief finance officer of Myanmar’s military-related telecommunications company Mytel was fatally shot on a Yangon street. Than Than Swe, then Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, was shot dead at her home in Yangon in April 2022. She survived and was promoted to bank governor.

Most recently, in March, a veteran corporate lawyer accused of helping military leaders was shot dead by self-proclaimed urban guerrillas in Yangon.

After taking over, the army cracked down on opponents in the cities, arresting thousands and using deadly force even on nonviolent protesters. The repression, which has now claimed more than 3,400 civilian lives, sparked widespread armed resistance.

The military dismissed the members of the previous electoral commission – which confirmed Suu Kyi’s party’s victory in the November 2020 general election – and appointed new ones. She also arrested several members of the old commission and pressured them into saying there was electoral fraud, according to independent Myanmar media.

The new military-appointed commission invalidated the 2020 election results and prosecuted Suu Kyi and 15 other top political figures for alleged fraud.

In the statement, For The Yangon claimed Sai Kyaw Thu was a plaintiff in the electoral fraud case against Suu Kyi. You, ousted President Win Myint and former Minister of the President’s Office Min Thu were sentenced to three years in prison in September last year.

A member of the guerrilla group said in a text message on Sunday that Sai Kyaw Thu was assassinated “because he was the deputy director-general of the illegal Military Council Electoral Commission that disregarded the votes of the people in the 2020 general election and abused people unfairly and also for that they falsely prosecuted President Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi as accomplices of the military council.”

“Whoever insults the public will be punished by the people,” said the group member, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared arrest by the authorities.

According to reports in Myanmar’s independent media, Sai Kyaw Thu was cross-examined as a prosecution witness in Suu Kyi’s trial last year.

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