Myanmar’s Senior Election Official with Military Ties Shot Dead

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Rebels in Myanmar have been blamed for the killing of Sai Kyaw Thu, the deputy head of the country’s military-appointed election commission. He was shot dead in the commercial capital of Yangon by members of the anti-coup People’s Defence Forces (PDF), who are fighting against military rule in the country. The PDF is a loosely-organised armed group that is part of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) which was established by democratically-elected politicians who were removed from office in the military coup. The NUG opposes the military which seized power over two years ago, leading to social unrest and an economic crisis in the country.

Sai Kyaw Thu was killed in Thingangyun Township, Yangon, on Saturday, with local media reporting that he was shot multiple times in the chest, neck and head. The army’s information team released a statement blaming the PDF for the killing, but did not provide further details. The military had tasked the election commission with holding new polls, which opponents of the military say cannot possibly be free or fair. Last month, the commission dissolved Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party over its failure to re-register under tough new military-drafted electoral rules.

Since seizing control of the country in 2021, Myanmar’s military has continued a bloody crackdown on dissent. PDF fighters have targeted officials known or perceived to be working with the military. Across the country, there are almost daily killings of low-level officials working with the military or alleged informers. Bloody reprisals from the military often follow quickly. In April last year, the deputy governor of Myanmar’s central bank, appointed by the military days after it seized power, was shot by unknown assailants at her house in Yangon. In November 2021, a top executive from Mytel — a telecoms venture between the military and Vietnamese firm Viettel — was gunned down outside his Yangon home.

The military’s power grab has also prompted renewed fighting with ethnic rebels and birthed dozens of other opposition groups now battling across the country. The situation in Myanmar remains tense, with no clear end to the violence and political instability in sight.