NLD supporter beaten to death after victory celebration

A longtime supporter of the National League for Democracy (NLD) was brutally beaten to death on Tuesday while celebrating the party’s first victory in his constituency in last Sunday’s election.

Witnesses said that Aung Zin Phyo, a 31-year-old resident of Tagongyi, a village in Ayeyarwady region’s Kangyidaunt township, was attacked by supporters of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) from the same village.

His wife, Htet Htet Htun, told Myanmar Now that the people responsible for her husband’s death had no previous grudge with him.

“We were serving meals to celebrate the NLD’s victory. The murderer arrived and we fed him. They’re from the same village and supporters of the USDP,” she said.

According to Htet Htet Htun, the man who came to eat a free meal at their house embraced her husband in a friendly manner and then led him a short distance away. When they were about 15 meters from the house, two other men appeared and all three proceeded to beat Aung Zin Phyo with a rock.

She said that she and other witnesses also heard one of the attackers shout that he was a supporter of the USDP.

“He was screaming ‘I’m from USDP! I’m from USDP!’ while he was hitting my husband. The women who cooked for the night came to grab him and asked what he was doing to someone from the same village,” said Htet Htet Htun. 

“He said that someone told him to do this, that he wasn’t doing it because he wanted to. Then he tried to run away, but everyone held him down,” she added.

She said that after the attack, Aung Zin Phyo was taken 15km away to Kangyidaunt hospital, but died of his injuries before he could receive medical attention.

“His left eye was completely smashed in and his nose was split in half. He was in such terrible condition that I couldn’t even recognize my own husband,” she said. 

The three men involved in the attack were identified as Wan Juti (also known as Min Tin), Ta Yote Gyi, and Pyae Sone Aung, all from Tagongyi.

Min Tin, 38, was arrested and charged with murder under article 32 of the penal code. He is currently in police custody at the Kangyidaunt township police station.

The other two men were held for questioning but have since been released, deputy police chief Tun Shwe of the Ayeyarwady Division Police Force told Myanmar Now.

Aung Zin Phyo had been a member of the NLD since the 2012 by-election and was actively involved in the party’s recruitment activities, said Htet Htet Htun.

She added that she wasn’t sure if her husband’s attackers were actually USDP members, but she knew that they were often involved in the party’s campaign activities.

At least one local person, 58-year-old A Nge Gyi of Tagongyi’s Sein Pan Myaing ward, claimed that the men were NLD supporters who regularly turned up at USDP-organized events.

The Tagongyi village administrator also cast doubt on the political affiliation of the attackers, telling Myanmar Now that he didn’t know “if they were red or green,” referring to the party colors of the NLD and the USDP, respectively.

However, Wai Yan Aung, the NLD candidate who won the Pyithu Hluttaw seat for Kangyidaunt township, dismissed the idea that the killers might have been NLD supporters.

“One of the arrested men used to heckle me when I gave speeches. I can tell you for sure that they don’t support the NLD,” he said.

The election on Sunday marked the first time the NLD had ever won at polling station No. (1) in Tagongyi, beating the USDP by just 15 votes.

Khin Saw Mu, the losing USDP candidate, accused the NLD of provoking her party’s supporters by holding multi-day victory celebrations. 

“Some people no longer want to leave their homes because they’ve been crying and they’re saddened by the news that someone good for our region has lost. While that’s happening, the other side won’t stop celebrating,” she said.

Htet Htet Htun said that she and her husband supported the NLD because they believe in the party’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

“What government at any point has supported the public like this before? Just look at that one simple fact. Even my children’s education. At our time, we only got to go to school if we could pay 4,000, 5,000, 8,000 kyat, at least. Now it costs nothing. They even provide uniforms. We don’t need to look very far, it’s right there in front of us,” she said.

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