Feature: U Phyo Zeya Thaw aka Zeya Thaw on stage in 2019. / Thein Than Oo
By The Irrawaddy 1 October 2021
Myanmar’s military regime has charged a rapper and former National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker with terrorism.
U Phyo Zeya Thaw is accused of involvement in covert attacks on junta targets in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon.
On Thursday, the junta’s spokesperson Major-General Zaw Min Tun said that the former hip-hop star has been charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law and the Public Property Protection Act.
“He was involved in several bomb attacks in Yangon. Now he is in hiding,” said the Maj. Gen.
Following the junta’s brutal crackdowns on anti-coup protesters, Myanmar has seen deadly attacks by civilian resistance fighters on regime targets like administration offices, police stations and army convoys. The junta has accused ousted NLD lawmakers and party members of masterminding most of the attacks.
After four police officers were shot dead in August aboard a train on Yangon’s Circular Railway, the regime said that U Phyo Zeya Thaw was behind the attack.
The 40-year-old served as an NLD MP in the Lower House of Parliament from 2012 to 2020.
But prior to that U Phyo Zeya Thaw made his name as a member of Acid, Myanmar’s original hip-hop band. Acid emerged in 2000, when the young Myanmar audience was growing bored of the country’s mainstream rock music and was looking for something new. Their debut release – Beginning – was the first rap album by local musicians and propelled the band to nationwide stardom, as well as paving the way for other Myanmar hip-hop artists.
But U Phyo Zeya Thaw was committed to politics as well as music. In 2007, he co-founded Generation Wave, an anti-regime movement against the then junta. Arrested in 2008, he remained in prison until 2011.
In 2012, U Phyo Zeya Thaw became the NLD’s candidate at the by-election for the Lower House parliamentary seat of Pobbathiri Township in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw. He won the seat, joining Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a Lower House MP. He was re-elected for a different township in the 2015 general election, but didn’t run for parliament in the 2020 election.
After the junta’s February 1 coup and its subsequent crackdowns on peaceful anti-regime protesters, U Phyo Zeya Thaw went into hiding but appears to have been active against the junta. As he didn’t stand for parliament in the 2020 poll, he is unlikely to be a member of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, a group of ousted elected NLD lawmakers which the military regime has branded a terrorist organization.
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