A retired high-ranking officer in Myanmar’s military was assassinated on Saturday by resistance forces opposed to military rule, the highest-ranking official to fall victim to the guerrilla conflict.
According to a report from the Burmese service of the U.S.-funded broadcaster Voice of America (VOA), which was picked up by the Associated Press, Ohn Thwin, a retired general and former ambassador, was shot at his home in Hlaing Township at around 3:00 p.m. His son-in-law Ye Tay Za, a retired captain, was also killed in the attack.
VOA Burmese reported that responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Inya Urban Force, one of dozens of anti-regime resistance groups that have sprung up to resist the military government that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in February 2021.
According to the Associated Press the Inya Urban Force declared in a Facebook post that “today’s mission is accomplished.” It claimed that Ohn Thwin had encouraged the military to seize power last February, terminating the country’s limited experiment in democracy, and to employ brutal violence against those resisting the takeover. The killing was confirmed and condemned yesterday by Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for the military junta.
The military coup has plunged Myanmar into turmoil, inflaming the country’s existing conflicts and spurring armed resistance in central parts of the country that have for decades been mostly free of conflict. In many areas of the country, this has taken the form of a polycentric asymmetric guerrilla war against the military-backed State Administration Council (SAC) and its various apparatchiks and supporters, during which civilian militias and urban guerrilla groups have carried out targeted killings and sabotage attacks on police outposts and telecommunications towers. Among the victims have been many people believed to be informers or military collaborators.
Ohn Thwin, 72, who served as Myanmar’s ambassador to Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and South Africa and was also reportedly a mentor to SAC Vice Chairman Gen. Soe Win, is the highest ranking official to fall victim to the resistance so far. It followed the assassination of Thein Aung, the chief finance officer of the military-linked Mytel Telecommunications Co., whose cellphone towers have also become the target of insurgent attacks. Another recent target was Than Than Swe, the deputy governor of the Central Bank, though she survived the attack and later received a promotion.
The killing of such a high-ranking target suggests that few SAC officials or supporters can count themselves entirely safe from resistance attacks. Aside from the heart of the regime’s power in Naypyidaw, where the homes of leading generals and politicians sit in barricaded seclusion, few live entirely isolated from the taciturn and resentful public.
As Zachary Abuza of the National War College in Washington, D.C. noted, “This will rattle a lot of cages in Naypyitaw & force the SAC to over-react. If the [resistance] can hit him, the junta can’t ensure anyone’s safety.”