BANGKOK — A deputy governor of Myanmar’s Central Bank was shot at her home on Thursday, less than a week after tough new regulations were issued ordering that foreign money held in bank accounts in the military-ruled nation must be exchanged for the local currency.
There were conflicting accounts of whether Than Than Swe, appointed to her post after the military seized power, survived the attack.
She is believed to be the most senior official associated with the military-run administration to be shot since February last year, when the army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The takeover triggered widespread peaceful protests that were quashed with lethal force, triggering armed resistance that some U.N. experts now characterize as civil war.
Than Than Swe was shot by two men when she opened the door to her apartment in Bahan township in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, said Thet Oo, a local official. He said she was taken to a military hospital where she was confirmed dead, but a report by the U.S. government-backed Radio Free Asia cited a military spokesman as saying she was being treated for her wounds.
“Two men came to her apartment and fired three shots. I also heard the gunfire,” Thet Oo told The Associated Press. “Shortly after the gunfire, security forces arrived at the housing.”
The Home Affairs Ministry confirmed in a text message to journalists that the 55-year-old banker had been attacked.
A militant group called the Yangon Region Military Command, which pledges allegiance to the National Unity Government, the main opposition organization, posted a statement on its Facebook page taking responsibility for the attack on Than Than Swe.
It claimed to have carried out 1,128 attacks from last September, when the NUG announced it was launching offensive attacks on the military. It said its attacks resulted in 253 deaths and 300 injuries.
Its claim of responsibility for shooting Than Than Swe was unusual because the NUG - which did not immediately comment on the incident - has tended to distance itself from attacks on civilians that could be characterized as terrorism. It also has only loose control over the network of armed resistance groups that are collectively called the People’s Defense Force.
In addition to combat in the countryside, urban guerrillas opposed to military rule have carried out targeted killings, sabotage, arson and small bombings. Officials and members of the military have been targeted, as well as people believed to be informers or military collaborators.
Last year, Thein Aung, chief finance officer of Myanmar’s military-linked Mytel Telecommunications Co., was fatally shot by three men in front of his house in Yangon, but no clear claims of responsibility were made.
More than 1,730 civilians have been killed by the security forces since last year’s military takeover, according to a detailed tally assembled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog organization.
The Central Bank on Sunday issued a notice ordering businesses and individuals to convert dollars and other foreign currency into kyats within one day or face legal consequences.
It also said that foreign currency can only be sent overseas with government approval.
The order suggests the authorities may be running short of hard currency needed to pay debts and purchase key supplies such as oil, gas and weapons. In addition to having economic output clobbered by the coronavirus pandemic, Myanmar’s military leaders were hit with sanctions by Western powers protesting their takeover.
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