Friday, May 29, 2009

Six Years after Depayin, Survivors Recall the Horror

The Irrawaddy News

Six years after the Depayin massacre, 31-year-old Kyaw Soe Lin, one of its victims, says he will never forget the horror.

Kyaw Soe Lin was driving the car carrying Aung San Suu Kyi in a convoy that came under attack by pro-regime thugs on May 30, 2003. His quick action in driving away from the mob saved her life.

Fifty of Suu Kyi’s supporters are estimated to have died in the unprovoked attack, carried out by armed members of the pro-regime Union Solidarity and Development Association and the paramilitary Swan Ah Ashin militia.

The mob ambushed Suu Kyi’s convoy in Kyee village, on the outskirts of Depayin Township in Sagaing Division, central Burma. Barbed wire was strung across the road, which was bathed in flood lights hung in trees.

When the mob attacked his car, Kyaw Soe Lin’s first reaction was to hit back. “They started to hit people who were guarding our car. Then, they hit our car. I was very angry and I thought at first to hit them back. But then I drove the car away and escaped.”

His action undoubtedly saved Suu Kyi from serious injury or even death.

On Friday to mark the sixth anniversary of Depayin, several members of Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), gathered at its headquarters in Rangoon.

Toe Lwin, who was guarding Suu Kyi’s vehicle and now lives in exile, told The Irrawaddy in an interview. “The attackers moved toward Daw Suu’s car, and soon about 30 of them surrounded us. I told them it was Daw Suu’s car and asked them not to attack. I told them to stop beating people and asked them to go back.

“But they blocked our vehicles. They tore clothing off women and then beat them. They hit elderly people. I saw them collapse in front of me. I will never forget it.”

“Suddenly, they started to hit Daw Suu’s car. First I tried to protect it. Then they started to beat me. They hit my head three times and I collapsed. Daw Suu’s driver finally sped away and escaped.”

Police arrived on the scene when the attack was over. They detained the survivors and witnesses claimed some of the women were raped.

Suu Kyi was also detained and placed under house arrest, under Article 10 (b) of the 1975 State Protection Act Law. The law allows a person to be detained without charge for a maximum of five years. Suu Kyi has now been under house arrest for six years.

The Thailand-based Burma Lawyers’ Council released a statement on Friday saying the Depayin massacre constituted a crime against humanity and the perpetrators—who had not yet been apprehended—should be brought before the International Criminal Court.

The statement said that only then could the rule of law “be restored; a genuine national reconciliation will be achieved; and people will enjoy peace, stability and development.”

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