Dr Than Htut Aung, the CEO of Eleven Media Group, was attacked by assailants using slingshots and metal nuts as he drove home from work in central Rangoon on Tuesday evening. He was reported to be unhurt. Police released a statement on Wednesday morning saying they had apprehended two suspects.
The incident happened at the busy junction of U Chit Maung Road and Ar Zarni Street in Bahan Township at around 6pm yesterday, Eleven Media reported.
“The well-organised assailants waited in a taxi [in] the opposite lane, and hit the car of the CEO from the close range of two feet with the use of [hardware] nuts [which] they aimed at the head of the CEO. The attack damaged the glass of the car, but Dr Than Htut Aung was not injured,” the report said.
Witnesses said they saw the attackers get out of the taxi and hurl metal nuts with slingshots about five or six times, before driving off in the direction of Tamwe roundabout. The assault was said to be well coordinated.
Eleven Media quickly uploaded a news report on its website, noting the taxi’s licence plate number and descriptions of the assailants.
On Wednesday, Rangoon Division police announced the arrest of a man they say was driving the taxi. The man was apprehended at 9pm in Bahan Township. Another suspect was arrested this morning, according to the police statement. Both have been charged with attempted murder.
According to the police report, the driver of the taxi used by the assailants has been identified as Yan Naing, a.k.a. T-Gaung (meaning Earthworm), 28, from Thanlyin Township. He confessed to taking an acquaintance that he knew as ‘Spider’ to the crime scene. Yan Naing said that when they arrived at U Chit Maung Road, Spider made a phone call to two youths who attacked the vehicle with slingshots before getting into the taxi and ordering him to drive off.
The taxi driver’s confession contradicts the statement given to Eleven Media by an eye-witness who said that two assailants got out of the taxi and attacked the car carrying Than Htut Aung.
Police said they are still looking for the other accomplices in the attack.
The Eleven Media Group CEO issued his own statement via his news group, saying he believed the attack was “well-organised and carefully plotted”.
“It might [have been] a well-organised assault,” he said. “I have about two roads to use for my return home from my office. Perhaps someone reported … which time I return home and his accomplices waited somewhere and attacked me.”
He added: “Such an assault cannot prevent us from our ongoing stance and efforts, and the journalism standards of Eleven Media Group.”
While he played down fears for his own safety, Than Htut Aung noted that if this attack was proved to be political in nature then he was “deeply concerned about the safety of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi”.
Eleven Media was founded by Than Htut Aung in 2000. International press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) named it as co-winner of its ‘Media of the Year’ award for 2011, saying that the newspaper “has never bowed to Burma’s censors”.
“Weekly Eleven News has always stood up to the military junta, using extraordinary ingenuity to slip through the censorship net and inform the Burmese public,” RSF said at the time. “Its editors and reporters have taken considerable risks and deserve our encouragement. At a time when Burmese political life and society seem to be showing signs of opening up, Weekly Eleven News has more than ever a key role to play.”