Executive of Myanmar army-linked telecom firm fatally shot

BANGKOK (AP) — A top executive of Myanmar’s military-linked telecommunications company was fatally shot Thursday near his home in Yangon, the country’s commercial capital, in an apparent assassination linked to the country’s violent political unrest.

Thein Aung, chief finance officer of Mytel Telecommunications Co., was shot by three men on bicycles at 7:30 a.m. while walking with his wife near their home in Mayangone township, ward administrator Ye Win Aung said. His wife, Theint Aung Thu, was wounded and taken to a hospital.

The military’s information office confirmed the attack on the 56-year-old executive, who was a former naval officer. It said no one had claimed responsibility.

Mytel, Myanmar’s fourth-largest telecoms operator, is a joint venture between the Myanmar military and Vietnam’s Defense Ministry and was launched in 2018.

The shooting was apparently carried out by militant opponents of Myanmar’s military-installed government, which took power in February when the army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mytel, as an enterprise that provides revenue to the government, is a major target of the government’s foes. It is the focus of a consumer boycott, and local media have reported more than 80 of its cellphone towers have been destroyed by sabotage. Videos of some being damaged have been posted on social media.

Militants have carried out frequent targeted killings, sabotage, arson and small bombings in recent months. If their involvement is confirmed, Thein Aung would be their highest-profile victim.

Those usually targeted for killing are people believed to be informers or collaborators with the government. Often they are local officials. Many have quit their posts in response to threats.

The government also employs violence on a larger scale, with the military using artillery to attack villages believed to harbor armed opponents. An investigation published last week by The Associated Press provided credible accounts of torture carried out by the security forces, which have also been accused of “disappearing” activists.

The violent resistance is an outgrowth of a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign that was launched shortly after the military takeover. When security forces began using lethal force to quash demonstrations, some protesters responded with homemade weapons such as slingshots and firebombs.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, security forces have killed more than 1,200 civilians.

Violence escalated as the positions of both sides hardened.

In addition to the consumer boycott of Mytel, activists have urged foreign investors and suppliers to shun the company.

A Mytel director reached by phone Thursday declined to comment on the attack or on criticisms of the company. Calls to a spokeswoman’s phone went unanswered.

The government said last month that there were 986 “terror attacks,” 2,344 bomb attacks and 312 arson attacks from February to late October.

“Due to their terrorist attacks, 1,155 civilians died and 765 people were injured. Moreover, a total of 182 persons including 75 military personnel, 93 police personnel and 14 civil servants died, while 602 were injured,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “A total of 251 schools and education buildings were torched and bombed by the terrorists. They destroyed roads and railways for 536 times and 76 bridges were also damaged.”

The government’s claims, like those of the opposition, could not be independently checked.

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