Ex-bodyguard describes brutal attacks on pro-democracy rally
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WASHINGTON, July 14, 2003--A former bodyguard of Aung San Suu Kyi says supporters of the detained Burmese opposition leader formed a human wall around her car during an attack on a pro-democracy rally near Depayin township, in the northern part of the country, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.
The man, a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who travelled with Aung San Suu Kyi's motorcade by motorbike in May, said the trouble started just as the convoy approached Depayin, at a village called Kyipayatet. "About 15-20 cars approached our convoy from the rear and the people in those cars started using catapults and sticks to attack the people from Kyipayatet," he told RFA's Burmese service on condition of anonymity.
"They were using knives, catapults, 2-inch by 1-inch wooden stakes and pointed bamboo sticks to attack and beat the villagers and the NLD members," he said. "We could see the beatings and the attacks as their car headlights and the headlights from our motorcycles shone right at them." He said the men, some of whom wore armbands saying "People Power" and some of whom were dressed as monks, attacked villagers and NLD members travelling with Aung San Suu Kyi, who refused to move on until she had discovered who had launched the attack.
"As we couldn't escape from the confines of the car every one of us got beaten," he said, adding that when the attackers reached Aung San Suu Kyi's four-wheel-drive truck, supporters and bodyguards formed a protective layer around her car. "Three on each side. Left and right, to prevent them from reaching her," he said. "We got hit. One fell, another one took over. He fell. Another one would step in. He fell again. There were so many people."
He said Aung San Suu Kyi was finally persuaded to leave the village, and he fled the scene, losing his motorcycle.
Other eyewitness accounts say dozens of people were beaten to death by gangs sponsored by the ruling junta in the Depayin area. They say the attackers wore monks' habits because of government fears that the Buddhist establishment had thrown its support behind the opposition movement in recent months.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been held in "protective custody" since May 30, along with other leading NLD figures. World leaders have condemned the junta since her arrest, resulting in economic sanctions against the Burmese leadership.
In response, junta leader General Than Shwe has sent his two foreign ministers on a tour of Asian capitals in an attempt to defend the regime's actions, saying the NLD had tried to enlist the help of rebel military groups and constitutes a threat to national security.
The United States is preparing an import ban, an asset freeze, and a ban on remittances to Burma in response to the attacks and Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detention. Sanctions have also been announced by Canada, the EU, and Japan.
RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content. #####