Two Myanmar citizens arrested in plot to kill UN ambassador

Pair was arrested on charges of conspiracy

Two Myanmar citizens have been arrested for plotting to kill or injure the country's ambassador to the UN, authorities in Manhattan said on Friday.

The US Attorney's Office said Phyo Hein Htut, 28, and Ye Hein Zaw, 20, have been charged with paying an arms dealer in Thailand to hire people to attack Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun in an effort to force him to resign.

If the ambassador did not resign, the arms dealer proposed that the hired attackers would kill him, prosecutors said in court papers.

The pair was arrested on charges of conspiracy "to assault and make a violent attack".

On Wednesday, Mr Kyaw Moe Tun reported the apparent threat against him when he was made aware of it on Tuesday and authorities stepped up his security.

"Reportedly, there is some threat. The police are working on it. Necessary security has been provided by the police," Mr Kyaw Moe Tun told Reuters.

Mr Kyaw Moe Tun represents Myanmar's elected civilian government, which was overthrown by the military in February.

The military leaders fired him then, but for now he remains the country's UN envoy because the world body has not acknowledged the military takeover.

It remained unclear what, if any, connection the suspects had with the military junta.

Prosecutors said Phyo Hein Htut had been in touch with an arms dealer in Thailand who had dealings with the military in Myanmar. The two conversed by the video chat service FaceTime, while Phyo Hein Htut was inside Myanmar's UN mission in New York, a criminal complaint said.

The arms dealer spoke to Phyo Hein Htut about hiring assailants for the plot, which involved sabotaging the tires of the ambassador's car to force it to crash, the criminal complaint said.

The complaint included photos of what appeared to show $4,000 sent in July via the Zelle digital payment app from Ye Hein Zaw to Phyo Hein Htut, allegedly as an advance payment.

Kyaw Moe Tun made headlines after the coup by flashing the three-finger salute of democracy protesters from his UN chair as Myanmar's representative, brazenly defying the junta's insistence that he no longer represents the country.

Kyaw Moe Tun has repeatedly called for international intervention to help end unrest and reinstate Myanmar's civilian government.

In a letter this week, he called for a global arms embargo on the junta, which maintains relations notably with neighbouring China.

News agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: August 6th 2021, 9:03 PM