Suu Kyi's attackers screamed 'Die, die', say survivors

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The Independent Online

Attackers, some dressed as monks, ambushed Aung San Suu Kyi's convoy from the front and rear, and indiscriminately beat, stabbed and clubbed her supporters while screaming "Die, die", two Burmese dissidents said yesterday.

The testimony by Khin Zaw and Wunna Maung before a Thai Senate panel provided graphic details of the 30 May violence that supporters say was unleashed on the Nobel laureate's convoy before her arrest and the Burmese government's crackdown on her pro-democracy party.

Both said they were in the convoy and witnessed the night-time attack outside Depayin village in northern Burma. Ms Suu Kyi, the country's pro-democracy icon, was travelling in the area as part of her 15-year-old non-violent campaign to restore democracy in the military-ruled country.

The testimony of the two men is the most comprehensive and detailed account yet of the attack, and lends credibility to other opposition claims that up to 70 people were killed. Both men are members Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. The government says four people were killed in the clash, claiming it was triggered by Ms Suu Kyi's convoy ploughing through peaceful pro-government protesters.

"I saw with my own eyes the attackers striking down the victims with all their force, and stabbing viciously with pointed iron rods," U Khin Zaw, 50, told the Thai Senate's foreign relations committee. "Truly, it was a murderous attack. The beating was done until the victims died.

"It appeared that the attackers were systematically trained. They mainly aimed and struck on the head. Even when I was at a 100 metres I heard with anguishing pain, the popping sounds of heads being broken by savage blows," U Khin Zaw added.

He said the attackers used iron rods and spears, bamboo staves and wooden bats. Some of them came in trucks from behind to block the retreat while many more emerged from bushes along the road where they had been hiding.

The attackers numbered about 3,000 and Ms Suu Kyi's convoy of 10 cars and 20 motorcycles comprised about 300 to 400 people, he said. About 500 other supporters were stopped earlier by security forces and not allowed to proceed with the convoy, he said. The testimonies did not say how many people were killed. The two men said they had no way of knowing that, because they fled for their lives. They were in constant fear of being arrested until they reached refuge in Thailand.

Wunna Maung, 26, said he was one car behind Ms Suu Kyi's vehicle at the head of the convoy when the attack began. Ms Suu Kyi "escaped beating because she did not get out of the car," he said. "The attackers were totally drunk."

As her car sped away, the mob attacked women in another car, "pulling off their blouses and sarongs", he went on. "When the victims, covered in blood, fell to the ground, I saw the attackers jump on them and wrap the hair around their heads and pound the heads against the stone surface of the road." All the while, the killers were shouting "Die, die", he said.

After providing the testimony, the two men, fearing arrest for illegally entering Thailand, went to the United Nations office in Bangkok to apply for status as political refugees, a process that takes some time. A senior Thai Foreign Ministry official said later that a deal was reached with them under which Thai authorities would not arrest them as long as they did not speak to the press.

The Thai Senate committee invited the two men to speak so both sides of the story could be heard, Sunai Phasuk, an adviser to the panel, said. So far only the junta had given its version. The committee was told that Ms Suu Kyi escaped in her car from the clash but was detained along with dozens of supporters soon afterward.

She has been held incommunicado since then by the Burmese junta, despite an international outcry and sanctions by the European Union and the United States.