BANGKOK (AP) — A retired high-ranking officer in Myanmar’s military was shot dead at his home in the country’s biggest city, Yangon, in the latest such killing attributed to militants opposed to army rule.
Ohn Thwin is believed to be the highest-ranking active or retired military officer assassinated since February last year, when the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering widespread public opposition.
An urban guerrilla group called Inya Urban Force claimed responsibility for the attack on Ohn Thwin, 72, who also had served as Myanmar’s ambassador to Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa. His son-in-law was also killed.
The military government’s spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, confirmed their deaths to the Myanmar-language service of the U.S. government-backed broadcaster Voice of America on Saturday evening. He condemned it for being an attack on veterans.
The takeover prompted peaceful protests that security forces suppressed with bloody violence, leading to armed resistance that has escalated into what some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war.
Ohn Thwin was shot in the head by two men about 3 p.m when he opened the door to his house in Hlaing township in Yangon, said two residents, who spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because they fear retribution from the authorities.
They said his son-in-law, Ye Tay Za, a retired captain in the military, was also shot when he resisted the attack and tried to help Ohn Thwin.
The residents said the victims were taken to Kan Thar Yar Hospital, which is reportedly owned by a holding company controlled by the military.
In a Facebook post, the Inya Urban Force declared “today’s mission is accomplished.” It claimed that Ohn Thwin encouraged the military to commit brutal actions against civilians and had advised the army to seize power from Suu Kyi’s civilian government.
Most of the fighting between the military and it opponents takes place in the countryside, where the army has carried out major offensives to try to quash the armed wing of the pro-democracy movement and discourage its supporters. The government forces are credibly reported to have used brutal tactics including deliberately burning down villages, a charge denied by the government.
The army also has tried to clamp down on opponents in the cities, arresting thousands and using lethal force. According to a detailed list by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organization, at least 2,316 civilians have been killed by security forces since the army seized power last year.
Urban guerrillas opposed to army rule have carried out targeted killings, sabotage, arson and small bombings. Officials and members of the military have been victims, as well as people believed to be informers or military collaborators.
Last year, Thein Aung, a former navy lieutenant commander who was chief finance officer of Myanmar’s military-linked Mytel Telecommunications Co., was fatally shot by three men in front of his house in Yangon, but no clear claims of responsibility were made.
Than Than Swe, then a deputy governor of Myanmar’s Central Bank, was shot at her home in Yangon in April. A militant group that pledges allegiance to the National Unity Government, the main opposition organization, claimed responsibility for the attack, which Than Than Swe survived. She was promoted in August to chair the bank.