YANGON — Police in Yangon say they have arrested six suspects in Friday’s murder of a man whose brother helped expose a ward administrator as a wanted rape suspect but deny any connection.
Police Captain Maung Maung Oo, head of the Dagon Myothit Township police station, said Thet Wai Htoo, 36, was hacked to death with swords on Friday and that six suspects were arrested the following day. He identified the suspects, all related, as Naing Win, a Ward 140 assistant in Dagon Myothit South, Chit Hla, Nay Lin, Aung Thet Paing, Than Naing Win and Aung Soe.
The police have filed homicide charges against the six under sections 114 and 302 of the Penal Code, which is punishable with life in prison or death. But the captain denied that the suspects were taking revenge on the victim because his older brother, Zaw Zaw Aung, had informed on the ward administrator, Yan Naing Soe.
“The dead person was drunk and being a bit aggressive. Then the [ward assistant] and his relatives reacted to the victim furiously. So we can say it happened because of anger,” Capt. Maung Maung Oo said.
However, the captain’s claim contradicts the account of Zaw Zaw Aung.
Zaw Zaw Aung said he was told by neighbors that some of Yan Naing Soe’s supporters were searching for his younger brother because they were angry with him for helping expose Yan Naing Soe to the media as a wanted rape suspect.
By the time Zaw Zaw Aung returned to the ward on Friday evening, he saw his brother barely alive lying in a pool of blood with multiple cuts to his body and his attackers standing around him. He said he wanted to save his brother but was held back by neighbors who feared he too would be attacked.
Once the assailants left, Zaw Zaw Aung said, he tried to rush his brother to the nearest hospital, but his brother died on the way.
He said he heard the assailants yell “Let’s leave, this guy seems to be dead now. Zaw Zaw Aung should be killed like this, too. He is quite active as a politician in this ward.”
Zaw Zaw Aung said he was actually the prime target, but because he spent most of his time outside the ward the attackers turned on his brother.
According to the Home Affairs Ministry website, Yan Naing Soe, also known as Karen, allegedly raped a 14-year-old girl with four other men in Yangon’s Thingangyun Township in 2011. While two of the men were sent to jail for two years and another was acquitted, Yan Naing Soe has evaded arrest.
In 2017, Yan Naing Soe moved to Dagon Myothit, where he contested and won a local election for Ward 140 administrator. But when some locals learned of his alleged crime, they leaked the information to freelance journalist Myo Myint.
In May, Myo Myint wrote on his Facebook page that Yan Naing Soe was still at large and working as a ward administrator even though Thingangyun Township police had handed a warrant for his arrest over to their counterparts in Dagon Myothit.
A few days later, Myo Myint was verbally threatened over the phone by one of Yan Naing Soe’s supporters and asked to take down the post
Myo Myint made the post private after a childhood friend, the wife of a police officer, advised him to be careful of Yan Naing Soe because he was a local gang leader.
The freelance journalist had also called police about Yan Naing Soe and was told they would look into it.
Myanmar Now journalists then contacted Dagon Myothit residents, including Zaw Zaw Aung, one of Myo Myint’s sources, to investigate the case and in mid-June published a story titled: “Rapist wanted by police becomes ward administrator.”
Yan Naing Soe fled the ward once the story came out and is still at large.
Neither the Ministry of Home Affairs nor Yangon Region police have issued any updates about Yan Naing Soe since.
Myanmar Now senior reporter Htet Khaung Lin told The Irrawaddy that Ward 140 was in the hands of criminals and that it was now split between those for and against Yan Naing Soe.
“Everyone knows who is responsible if authorities fail to arrest outlaws. Residents have many challenges when an outlaw becomes a ward authority, because he is barbarous and will not hesitate to handle issues in a violent way,” he said.