Ex-Lawmaker Accused of Planning Attacks Against Myanmar Junta Arrested

By The Irrawaddy 19 November 2021

Former National League for Democracy lawmaker U Phyo Zeya Thaw, who has been accused of masterminding deadly attacks on regime targets in Yangon, was arrested by junta forces during a raid on the outskirts of the city on Thursday.

The arrest came after a monthlong manhunt for the 40-year-old former parliamentarian, whom the regime accuses of supporting local civilian resistance forces and orchestrating several fatal hit-and-run attacks on junta troops in Yangon in recent months. The regime claimed the covert attacks include incidents in which soldiers manning security checkpoints in the city have been sprayed with bullets, and the deadly shooting of four police officers on board a Yangon Circular Rail train in August, among others.

Prior to his arrest, the regime charged U Phyo Zeya Thaw under the Counter-Terrorism Law and the Public Property Protection Act.

There has not yet been any official announcement about the arrest, which comes as the regime steps up its hunt for members of the People’s Defence Force (PDF)—a network of local civilian resistance groups—in Yangon. Late last month, the regime arrested veteran Myanmar democracy activist Ko Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group. It claimed that he was the leader of Operation Moonlight, which it said was a series of planned attacks in the city to be carried out by a PDF group.

Another 47 suspects were also arrested  in Yangon this month. The junta’s mouthpiece Myawady News said they were involved in the attacks in Yangon masterminded by the ex-lawmaker and others.

Sources close to the matter confirmed the raid and U Phyo Zeya Thaw’s arrest, saying “his laptop was also seized.” That means information about the resistance forces opposing the regime, and their supporters, has potentially been exposed, raising the likelihood of more arrests.

Following the junta’s brutal crackdowns on anti-coup protesters, Myanmar has seen deadly attacks by civilian resistance fighters on regime targets including administration offices, police stations and army convoys. The junta has accused ousted NLD lawmakers and party members of masterminding most of the attacks.

U Phyo Zeya Thaw served as an NLD MP in the Lower House of Parliament from 2012 to 2020.

Prior to that, he made his name as a member of Acid, Myanmar’s first hip-hop band. Acid emerged in 2000, when the young Myanmar audience was growing bored of the country’s mainstream rock music and looking for something new. Their debut release—Beginning—was the first rap album by local musicians and propelled the band to nationwide stardom, as well as paving the way for other Myanmar hip-hop artists.

After the junta’s Feb. 1 coup and its subsequent crackdowns on peaceful anti-regime protesters, U Phyo Zeya Thaw went into hiding but appears to have been active against the junta. As he didn’t stand for Parliament in the 2020 poll, he is unlikely to be a member of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, a group of ousted elected NLD lawmakers that the military regime has branded a terrorist organization.

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