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Two Arrested in Alleged Plot to Injure or Kill Myanmar's UN Ambassador

This screengrab of handout video made available on the U.N. YouTube channel shows Myanmar's ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun making a three-finger salute as he addresses the General Assembly on Feb. 26, 2021 in New York.

Authorities in the U.S. have arrested two Myanmar citizens residing in New York in connection with an alleged plot to kill their country's ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, federal prosecutors say.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York, Phyo Hein Htut concocted a plan with an arms dealer in Thailand who sells weapons to the Myanmar military. Under the plan, Phyo Hein Htut would "hire attackers to hurt the Ambassador in an attempt to force the Ambassador to step down from his post. If the Ambassador did not step down, then the Arms Dealer proposed that the attackers hired by Htut would kill the Ambassador."

The second defendant, Ye Hein Zaw, allegedly was going to send money to Phyo Hein Htut to finance the attack, which was to take place near New York City.

Each defendant is charged with 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.

Myanmar's military, which overthrew the government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, has been trying to remove Kyaw Moe Tun, who opposes the military junta, from his post at the U.N. and replace him. Kyaw Moe Tun told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday that his life had been threatened and that he was given additional security.

In late February, Kyaw Moe Tun spoke passionately before the U.N.

"We will continue to fight for a government which is of the people, by the people, for the people," Kyaw Moe Tun said, his voice cracking. He then spoke briefly in his native Burmese to address his fellow citizens listening in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.

"I would like to request to all of you to keep on fighting," he urged his countrymen, according to a translation of his remarks. "The revolution must succeed."

Messages seeking comment from the suspects' lawyers were not immediately returned, The Associated Press said, and a message and phone call seeking comment were sent to the Myanmar mission to the U.N.

Nearly 950 people have been killed, more than 7,000 have been arrested and 5,502 are still detained since the coup began on February 1, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), a human rights organization based in Thailand and Myanmar.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and AFP.