Junta leader ordered massacre, exile government says

BANGKOK, May 5, 2004�Burma�s exile government says it has new evidence that 282 people were killed in violence orchestrated by the junta last year and that junta leader Than Shwe was behind it, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has compiled a log of everyone killed in the May 30, 2003 violence in Depayin Township in northern Burma, a senior official in the exile government told RFA�s Burmese service. Previous reports estimated the number of deaths in the attack on Aung San Suu Kyi�s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) convoy at more than 100.

"This came from SPDC sources�they have people who listed the names of those who died in the incident. According to this list prepared by the authorities themselves, there were 282 dead, but it�s very difficult to get all the names because these documents are top secret," San Aung, minister in the exile prime minister�s office, said in an interview.

The exile government, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), published its findings in Burmese on May 4. The report hasn�t yet been published in English. The NCGUB also obtained a list of people belonging to junta-sponsored gangs or employed by the Shwebo District local government who took part in the attacks.

"There were eyewitness," San Aung said, "and we got their names from the eyewitnesses. We also got names from the public and from those who, against their will, carried out orders to attack NLD members and supporters. This includes people in the [junta-sponsored group] Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA), in the police, and in the army. They themselves admitted to the killings."

"If in reality there were an independent commission to investigate the incident, the true facts would surely come out," he said.

In some USDA meetings, San Aung said, junta leader Gen. Than Shwe reportedly claimed credit for organizing the massacre, although any documentary evidence to this effect has apparently been destroyed. "Than Shwe himself, from his mouth, said he organized this. But concrete evidence we will never have, because all orders on the case were unwritten, they were never on paper, and they erased all kinds of evidence with regard to the order for the killings," he said.

The report contains photos of the massacre site and tables listing those killed in and responsible for the attacks�as well as the names of companies whose cars were seized for use in the attack. Photos are available on the World Wide Web, at www.democratic-burma.com/depayin/depayin_Photo_index.htm and the report, in Burmese only, is available at www.democratic-burma.com/index.html

Sixteen cars from various private firms were commandeered for use in the attack, and the NCGUB report included the car registration numbers. It also contains an account of how weapons and chemical stimulants were distributed beforehand.

"We got the facts and figures from democracy forces inside the country as best as we could get," San Aung said. "They are credible and accurate, and we will take full responsibility for their accuracy. But this is not complete. Because of the secrecy of this information, we were unable to get complete information�please understand this."

The SPDC announced at a news conference May 31, the day after violence, that four people had been killed and 50 injured in a clash between NLD supporters and opponents. On Jan. 10, 2004, Burmese Police Chief Khin Yi reiterated that account and stood by the official death toll.

Officials at the Burmese Embassy in Washington were unavailable to comment on the report.

According to Burmese dissidents, May 30 attackers numbered about 3,000 and Aung San Suu Kyi's convoy of 10 cars and 20 motorcycles comprised 300 to 400 people. Eyewitness told RFA that the attackers used stakes, pipes, and clubs to beat and kill NLD supporters.

The State Department, in its latest annual report on human rights around the world, cited "credible reports [that] throughout the rest of the night following the attack, security forces clashed with and may have killed scores of other villagers, students, and Buddhist monks in the villages surrounding the attack site."

"The Government did not credibly investigate any of the attacks and thus perpetuated a climate of impunity. Officials reportedly involved in the assault were subsequently rewarded," it said.

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. Please visit www.rfa.org to learn more about RFA or to listen to RFA broadcasts. #####


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