Villagers warned of penalties for listening to foreign radio

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2003--The ruling Burmese junta has begun giving local officials in the area of a May 30 ambush on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi motorcycles confiscated during and after the incident, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. Sources inside Burma also say residents of one village have been warned of harsh penalties if they are caught listening to foreign broadcasts.

Government-sponsored gangs and officials in the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) seized an estimated 150 motorcycles from Aung San Suu Kyi's followers during and after the May 30 incident, in which Burmese sources say at least 100 people were killed.

Backers of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) were forced to abandon their motorcycles and run during the attack, in which roads were blocked from all sides.

The leader of Kyi village near the ambush site, Thein Aung, has been given a motorcycle and a mobile phone, according to sources who asked not to be named. Tin Win Myint, local leader of the government-led Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA)in Monywa near the ambush site, has also been given a motorcycle seized May 30, sources said. USDA gangs led the attack.

Another source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, reported that Thein Aung had warned Kyi villagers against listening to foreign media--warning of harsh punishment if they are caught.

In a statement, the SPDC last week criticized a report by RFA's Burmese service detailing up to 100 deaths and an unknown number of rapes in a carefully organized campaign culminating in the May 30 ambush and detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.

A government statement reported prominently by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said the reports were similar to earlier claims made by the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon. It said it would "leave the reliability of these sources to be judged by the international community."

The junta has kept Aung San Suu Kyi in detention since the Depayin attacks, drawing widespread international condemnation. The SPDC has repeatedly characterized the attacks as a brawl between NLD and anti-opposition supporters, with police trying to stop the conflict. It also claims that only four people died.

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.#####


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