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Myanmar Central Bank official confirmed alive after assassination attempt

The deputy governor of Myanmar’s Central Bank is alive and recuperating at a military hospital in the country’s commercial capital Yangon, junta officials said Tuesday, dispelling reports that she had died after being shot last weekend.

Than Than Swe was shot by unknown assailants at her apartment complex in Yangon’s Bahan township on April 7 amid a public outcry over a new directive ordering the sale of all U.S. dollars and other foreign currency at a fixed rate to licensed banks. Initial reports by the Associated Press and domestic media suggested that the bank official had died at the hospital from injuries she sustained in the shooting, citing sources close to the deputy governor and a local official. 

On Tuesday, junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun told RFA that Than Than Swe is being treated at Yangon’s Mingaladon Military Hospital and is in stable condition.

“There were no deaths. She is recovering,” he said.

“We are now seeing attacks on civilians who have nothing to do with the security forces. We are currently working to prevent such attacks with a system that includes security forces and the public,” he added, without providing details.

Aung Kyaw Than, director general of the Central Bank’s financial management department, also confirmed to RFA that Than Than Swe is alive and undergoing medical treatment.

Than Than Swe, 55, was sworn in as deputy governor of the Central Bank after the military seized power from Myanmar’s democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup.

Believed to be the most senior junta official to be shot since the takeover, she is known to have led efforts to reduce the cash flow in the banking and financial system under the NLD, according to a report by The Irrawaddy online news agency.

The attack on Than Than Swe came days after an unpopular April 3 bank directive ordering all foreign currency, including the U.S. dollar, to be resold within one day of entering the country to licensed banks at a fixed rate of 1,850 kyats to the dollar. The order also requires government approval before any foreign currency can be sent overseas.

Attacks on junta targets

On the day of the attack, a group known as the Yangon Region Military Command (YRMC) announced that it had “successfully carried out” the attack on Than Than Swe as it’s “latest target.” The YRMC is an anti-junta paramilitary group that has pledged loyalty to Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and claims to have carried out more than 1,100 attacks since the NUG declared war on the military in September.

On Tuesday, a member of the Free Tiger Rangers told RFA that his group of anti-junta fighters was involved in the attack and that Than Than Swe had been targeted for supporting the military regime and carrying out its policies.

“We attacked Than Than Swe, the Central Bank deputy governor,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said the attack was the last objective of a seven-month operation targeting junta members and their supporters and had been carried out “under the direction of the NUG Ministry of Defense.”

The Ranger said his group considers anyone who did not join the nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) that has seen thousands of people leave their jobs to take part in anti-junta protests “our enemies.”

“[However] we don’t kill every non-CDM employee. We only try to get rid of those who have become a huge help to the junta and brought trouble to the people,” he said.

The NUG, which has distanced itself from attacks on civilians, did not immediately respond to RFA requests for comment on Tuesday.

No ‘normalcy’ in Myanmar

Than Soe Naing, a military observer, told RFA that targeted attacks like the one on Than Than Swe are likely to rattle the junta.

“The military wants to show the world that the situation in the country is stable and peaceful, and they can do whatever they want,” he said. “These activities [by the opposition] are effective because they reject the military’s claim that normalcy has returned to Myanmar.”

Than Soe Naing added that while he didn’t want to comment on whether targeted attacks on civilians like Than Than Swe are right or wrong, they are “surely a consequence of the military coup.”

Junta security forces have killed at least 1,745 civilians and arrested nearly 10,200 others since February 2021, mostly during peaceful anti-coup demonstrations, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.