Myanmar national pleads guilty to role in plot to attack UN envoy

One of two Myanmar nationals arrested in August in connection with a plot to attack the country’s ambassador to the United Nations has pled guilty for his role in the conspiracy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Ye Hein Zaw entered his plea in White Plains Federal Court before U.S. District Judge Philip M. Halpern on Dec. 10, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement, admitting guilt to “a plot to injure or kill Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations in a planned attack that was to take place on American soil.”

“Zaw now awaits sentencing for his crime,” Williams said. “I commend the tireless efforts of our law enforcement partners at all levels of government to ensure the safety of foreign diplomats and officials in the United States and bring the perpetrators of this plot to justice.”

U.S. authorities revealed the plot to kill Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, a key critic of Myanmar’s military junta, on Aug. 6, after they arrested a security volunteer, Phyo Hein Htut, 28, and Ye Hein Zaw, 20, who is said to have been an intermediary who sent money from an arms dealer in Thailand to bankroll the attack.

The alleged goal was to remove Kyaw Moe Tun as Myanmar’s permanent representative to the U.N. Both suspects are Myanmar citizens residing in New York.

In last week’s statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Ye Hein Zaw admitted that shortly after agreeing to the plan, he transferred approximately U.S. $4,000 to his co-conspirator as an advance payment on the plot to attack Kyaw Moe Tun. Later, he said, he and the co-conspirator discussed how the planned attackers would require an additional U.S. $1,000 to conduct the attack and, for an additional payment, could kill the ambassador. In response, he agreed to pay the additional money.

Ye Hein Zaw pled guilty to 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. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 10, 2022. Phyo Hein Htut faces the same charges.

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun has previously told RFA that he learned of the plot from the Burmese community in New York who have rallied around him since he gave a high profile address Feb. 26 to the U.N. General Assembly, appealing to the international community to end the military dictatorship and help restore democracy in Myanmar. The junta has demanded he step down as an ambassador, which he has refused to do.

On Feb. 1, Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup, alleging that the National League for Democracy engineered a landslide victory in the November 2020 election through widespread voter fraud. The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently repressed anti-coup protests, killing at least 1,329 people and arresting nearly 8,000 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

A decision by the U.N. credentials committee about who represents Myanmar at the world body was recently deferred, in what analysts said was a win for the country’s shadow National Unity Government.

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